Ease of doing business Current Affairs

Cabinet approves ordinance to amend law for speedy disposal of commercial disputes

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved promulgation of Ordinance amend a law for speedy disposal of commercial disputes. This decision aims to improve India’s ranking in World Bank’s ease of doing business index. The index takes into consideration dispute resolution environment in country, which facilitates investors in deciding for setting up of and operation of a business.

Key Facts

The ordinance will replace Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill which is pending in Parliament. It will bring down specified value of commercial dispute to Rs 3 lakh from the present Rs 1 crore. It also aims to bring down time taken from the present 1,445 days in resolution of commercial disputes of lesser value.

The amendments through ordinance provides for establishment of commercial courts at district judge level for territories over which High Courts Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Himachal Pradesh have ordinary original civil jurisdiction. The ordinance will be given prospective effect so that authority of the judicial forum presently adjudicating commercial disputes is not affected.

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Cabinet delegates power to Finance and Oil Ministers to award oil and gas blocks

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has delegated powers to Finance and Petroleum Ministers to award oil and gas exploration blocks to successful bidders under Hydrocarbon Exploration Licensing Policy (HELP). Under HELP, exploration blocks are to be awarded twice in a year and currently awarding of blocks requires the CCEA’s approval. Delegation of these powers will expedite decision making process on awarding blocks and further enhance ease of doing business in petroleum and natural gas sector.

Background

Under HELP, Empowered Committee of Secretaries (ECS) considers Bid Evaluation Criteria (BEC), conducts negotiations with bidders wherever necessary and makes recommendations to CCEA on award of blocks. Then CCEA approves award of blocks.

The entire process, including Inter Ministerial Consultations (IMC) is quite lengthy and time consuming. It hampers ease of doing business. So it was desirable to shorten duration of time taken for award of blocks and contract areas. Under HELP the competitive bidding is continuous process and blocks are awarded twice year.

Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP)

Central Government had launched Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) in March 2016, as a new policy regime for Exploration & Production (E&P) in petroleum and natural gas sector. Its main features are Revenue Sharing Contract (RCS), single Licence for exploration and production of conventional as well as unconventional hydrocarbon resources, marketing and pricing freedom etc. Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) is also main innovative feature under HELP wherein investor can carve out blocks of their own interest and submit an expression of interest (Eol) throughout year. Based on areas for which EoI has been expressed bidding is conducted every 6 months.

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