The Delhi High Court on Monday rejected a public interest litigation challenging the appointment of Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra as a director in the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited, PTI reported. Patra, a surgeon, was appointed the non-official director on the board of ONGC for a period of three years.
The petition, filed by non-government organisation Energy Watchdog, had challenged Patra’s appointment on various grounds, including that he did not have the relevant experience and that he was very close to the ruling party at the Centre.
The court said that “it would be highly inappropriate” to doubt Patra’s ability to discharge his duties independently just because he is the spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Besides, the court said, the NGO has not alleged that Patra or his relatives had any “pecuniary relationship” with the PSU or its subsidiaries, holding company or promoters.
The court added that it cannot be said that experience in healthcare would be of no relevance at ONGC. “The Board of Directors of such an organisation must stay alive to the needs of health and environment, and the presence of a medical expert on the Board of Directors cannot be considered to be an appointment on an irrelevant criteria,” the bench said.
It added that “professionals like doctors, lawyers, chartered accountants would undoubtedly make value additions” in any field.
Dismissing the petition as “without merit and unsubstantiated”, the court said that Patra was appointed on the recommendation of the search committee “which would have considered his qualifications and eligibility”.
Energy Watchdog had also challenged the appointment of Shashi Shanker as the chairperson and managing director. The bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed that as well.
Regarding Shanker’s appointment, Energy Watchdog had said that he should not hold the post as he was suspended for six months in 2015 in connection with an investigation. The bench said the NGO’s contention was “completely untenable and devoid of any factual or legal merit”. It further added that there were no allegations that Shanker did not have the experience or was not eligible to hold the post.