Oily money

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/16/2018 12:11:04 PM IST

 There appears to be a silver lining in the Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) signed on November 20,2018 between the opposing sides-government of Nagaland(represented by the NPNG Board) and the litigant, the Lotha Hoho which filed a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) in challenging the constitutional validity of the Nagaland Petroleum & Natural Gas (PNG) Regulations 2012 and Nagaland PNG Rules 2012 in the Kohima Bench of the Gauhati High Court. The Lotha Hoho had filed the PIL in response to clauses in the NPNG 2012. Under the powers of Article 371A, the Nagaland government had passed the Nagaland Petroleum & Natural Gas (NPNG) Regulations and the NPNG Rules (both in 2012). It also set up a NPNG Board that would monitor all activities related to oil and natural gas mining. The NPNG regulations stipulated a three-level committee: the first comprising state ministers; the second with senior bureaucrats; and the third with junior government officers, advisers and others. After the notification of the legislation in 2012, the government floated an Expression of Interest (EOI) for 11 oil and gas zones, including Changpang and Tssori under the Wokha oil zone in Wokha district including Peren oil zone. The beneficiary of the oil permit for Wokha and Peren was the controversial Metropolitan Oil & Gas Private Limited(MOGPL). The government awarded the permit for exploration and extraction etc to MOGPL for a period of ten years on 2014. The PIL also challenged the permit given by the state government to Respondent Number 7(MOGPL) and also filed against 7 parties, including the Nagaland state government. What had irked and sparked the Lotha Hoho was that the permit reportedly issued to MOGPL bore no file number and signed by the additional chief secretary and development commissioner and NPNG chairperson and not the officer in the rank of secretary of the department. This was supposed to have been the process as per Rule no. 4, first schedule of the Rules of Executive Business 1980 P&AR department notification No. AR. 11/4/77 of 28/07/1980 which states that all such cases has to be issued by the concern department and in this case by the secretary, Geology & Mining department through a notification in consultation with the Finance department.” The Lotha Hoho had also stated, “Expression of Interest (EOI) on which the permit was based was also notified without any file number and that too by the NPNG Board and not by the department concerned.” In the RTI response, the Department of Geology & Mining affirmed, again, that it had not received a copy of the EOI and knew nothing about MOGPL. While staying the order of the state the court also reiterated that Article 371A provided protection to customary laws and traditions and ownership of land and its resources (including those under the surface) but that “does not confer further competence on the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland to legislate on a subject which is within the exclusive domain of Indian Parliament.” The MoU may clear the decks for going through the motions but in view of the position held by the government of India on the constitutional validity of states vis-a-vis petroleum and gas, the issue seemed destined for another round of interpretations.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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