Gujarat HC judge recuses self from hearing ArcelorMittal Nippon's plea

"Not before this Court; for placing the matter with the appropriate court, the papers shall be posted with the Hon''ble the Chief Justice latest by July 29, 2020," Justice Udhwani said.

Gujarat High Court judge G R Udhwani on Tuesday recused himself from hearing a plea filed by ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India Ltd (AMNSIL) against the Government of Gujarat and Essar Bulk Terminal Ltd, seeking transfer of Hazira port licence to its name.

In an oral order, Justice Udhwani, in whose court the matter was listed for hearing, said "not before this court".

He did not cite any reason for recusing himself.

"Not before this Court; for placing the matter with the appropriate court, the papers shall be posted with the Hon''ble the Chief Justice latest by July 29, 2020," Justice Udhwani said.

Within days of acquiring Essar Steel under an insolvency process, AMNSIL had made an application to the Gujarat Maritime Board requesting that the licence of Hazira port be transferred to them.

While the government is yet to decide on the matter, the firm has approached the court stating that Essar Bulk Terminal Ltd (EBTL) holds captive licence as a nominee or trustee, according to the petition filed under Article 226.

Article 226 of the Constitution empowers the high courts to issue, to any person or authority, including the government (in appropriate cases), directions, orders or writs.

Essar Steel owns a 10 million tonnes per annum steel plant at Hazira in Gujarat, which is serviced by a captive jetty constructed at the port.

"The petitioner is seeking the reversion of the captive jetty licenses," AMNSIL said in its petition, claiming it was a captive user of the jetty and intended beneficiary under all licences and expansions.

"EBTL is not an independent licensee but merely a 'nominee' and 'trustee', holding the two licenses on behalf of and in trust for petitioner's exclusive use and benefit," AMNSIL said.

Essar Steel has ceased to be the same group company and therefore EBTL no longer stands eligible and does not possess any right as a license holder of the captive jetty, the company said.

Reacting to the petition, an Essar Ports spokesperson said, It is regrettable that ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel would pursue such a frivolous and legally untenable claim.

"ArcelorMittal has been doing this habitually but what is surprising to us is that Nippon Steel is also supporting such an approach."

The spokesperson further said, "Their claim is in violation of the signed agreements between the parties and is also in violation of the Hon. Supreme Court-approved resolution plan submitted by them. Their sole objective appears to be to profiteer unlawfully."

"We are confident that the judicial authorities will see through their malafides and deal with the petition accordingly, he said in a statement.



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