New Delhi: A senior executive from Oil India Ltd (OIL) took interim charge on Sunday as director general of hydrocarbons, pending the selection of a replacement for V.K. Sibal, who has been caught in the crossfire between the feuding Ambani brothers.
S.K. Srivastava, director of operations at state-run OIL, the country’s second biggest explorer, confirmed to Mint that he had taken additional charge at the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH). Srivastava, who has been given charge of DGH for six months, has been associated with the regulator as deputy director general.
“DGH is a great organization and I have been associated with it for some time. The government has entrusted me with this job, in which I take pride,” Srivastava said.
A decision hasn’t yet been made on Sibal’s request to return to OIL, his parent organization, said OIL officials familiar with the situation, who didn’t want to be named. Sibal did not respond to phone calls or to a message left with his assistant. His tenure at DGH and his lien from OIL ended on 31 October.
Sibal has been caught in the fight between Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and his estranged brother Anil Ambani’s Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL). RIL and RNRL are engaged in a bitter court battle over the supply of gas by the former from its D6 block in the Krishna-Godavari basin to the latter. Anil Ambani has alleged that Sibal favoured RIL.
RNRL has alleged that DGH, which regulates the production of oil and gas, improperly approved a fourfold increase in capital expenditure by RIL on the D6 exploration block where RIL made one of the biggest gas discoveries ever in India.
Both Sibal and RIL have denied allegations of financial favours being bestowed on members of Sibal’s family. Sibal has consistently denied any wrongdoing on his part.
The Central Vigilance Commission, or CVC, which oversees the functioning of government agencies, has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look into the allegations of a “nexus” between Sibal and RIL, Mint reported on 6 October.
A senior OIL executive, who didn’t want to be named, said Sibal had sought early retirement from the explorer once he rejoins the public sector firm.
“We have received a request from him (Sibal) to rejoin (OIL), where he is also seeking immediate retirement. We are examining it and looking into the procedural details,” said the executive.
The government plans to set up a selection committee that will appoint a new director general within three months.
“Sibal’s extension has been rejected. Temporary charge has been given to Srivastava. A new appointment will be made within three months,” said a senior official at the petroleum and natural gas ministry, who did not want to be identified. DGH falls under the purview of the ministry.
“The new selection will be made after placing advertisements. Srivastava taking charge is a temporary arrangement,” said another senior petroleum ministry official who also did not want to be identified, given the sensitive nature of the issue.
In reply to a question about whether he would be interested in taking full-time responsibility at the regulator, Srivastava said, “It depends. I will see when the advertisements come out.”