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May 2, 2002 | 1325 IST
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Reliance still in IPCL race: Baijal

BS Economy Bureau

Reliance Industries Ltd, whose top executives have been charged with violation of the Official Secrets Act, is still in the race for the 26 per cent government equity in Indian Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd.

"As of now, there is no change in the government's decision on the Reliance bid for IPCL," divestment secretary Pradip Baijal told Business Standard. The company's bid has been found to be in order.

The controversy notwithstanding, the ministry of divestment has acted as per the existing guidelines, which state that a mere complaint under the Official Secrets Act was not a ground for disqualification unless the charge was established in a court of law.

Reliance had submitted its financial bid on April 29 along with Indian Oil Corporation and detergent maker Nirma.

On the same day, a Delhi court had sent two of its top executives to judicial remand and issued a non-bailable warrant against another employee in connection with the Central Bureau of Investigation's complaint relating to violations of the Official Secrets Act.

Meanwhile, the reserve pricing committee on IPCL met on Wednesday to set the reserve price for the company, official sources said.

Although they declined to state any amount, industry sources peg the figure at around Rs 10 billion. Both Reliance and IOC are understood to have bid aggressively.

"The Committee of Secretaries is expected to open the bids soon and evaluate them against the reserve price set by the government," sources said.

The Cabinet Committee on Divestment is expected to meet soon after the current session of Parliament to finalise the strategic partner for IPCL.

Meanwhile, a Delhi court on Wednesday granted bail to Reliance group vice-president A N Sethuraman and general manager (corporate affairs) Shanker Adawal.

Sethuraman and Adawal had been remanded to judicial custody till May 13 by Delhi's chief metropolitan magistrate Sangita Dhingra Sehgal on April 29 for alleged violations of the Official Secrets Act.

Hearing the bail application filed against the April 29 order of the chief metropolitan magistrate, additional sessions judge RK Gauba said both Sethuraman and Adawal would furnish personal bonds of Rs 1 million each and sureties of a matching amount. The bail bond will be executed to the satisfaction of the trial court.

The court asked the two Reliance executives to surrender their passport. The judge also said the two would not tamper with evidence or try to influence the witnesses.

On April 29, the chief metropolitan magistrate had also issued a non-bailable warrant against Reliance group president V Balasubramaniam, who could not appear before the court that day on medical grounds.

The Reliance counsel had informed the court that Balasubramaniam had undergone an operation to remove a brain tumour in the US and was advised bed rest.

The counsel had then moved an application against the warrant. Hearing the application on Tuesday the court granted a stay on the warrant and asked Balasubramaniam to surrender before the court on May 13.

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