MUMBAI Nov 4 A high-profile legal dispute
between India's billionaire Ambani brothers was disrupted on
Wednesday when a judge withdrew from a Supreme Court hearing,
citing potential conflict of interest.
The hearing is expected to continue on Thursday, but
arguments will have to begin again from scratch before a new
bench, potentially delaying a verdict in a case that has
unnerved investors and clouded the outlook for India's biggest
The Supreme Court began hearing arguments on Oct. 20 in a
case that involves a deal by Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance
Industries (RELI.BO) to sell gas to Reliance Natural Resources
RENR.BO, led by his estranged younger brother Anil, at below
the price set by the government. [ID:nBOM489932]
The court will determine whether Reliance Industries stands
to make or lose billions of dollars on sales of gas from its
major find in the Krishna Godavari Basin off India's east
In an order, the Supreme Court said Justice R.V. Raveendran
had recused himself and the Chief Justice would constitute a
Sonam Udasi, vice president at BRICS Securities, said the
withdrawal of the judge was a "further indication that the case
will be a long-drawn affair".
At 0815 GMT, shares in Reliance Industries were up 4.7
percent after sliding nearly 6 percent on Tuesday. Reliance
Natural climbed 2 percent in a Mumbai market .BSESN that rose
Reliance Industries had been expected to wrap up its
initial arguments on Wednesday, but will now have to start
Reliance Natural will then present its case, and argue
against a government petition to become a party to the dispute.
The government has said it is the owner of the gas.
"The hearing will continue tomorrow, 100 percent," Mahesh
Agarwal, a lawyer for Reliance Natural said by telephone.
"Arguments will again begin from scratch."
A source at Reliance Industries, who did not want to be
named, also said the case would resume on Thursday, with its
counsel restating its initial arguments.
Raveendran, who was on a three-judge bench that includes
Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, said he would stand down as
his daughter worked at a firm that was a consultant to Reliance
At the start of the hearing last month, Raveendran had said
he owned an equal amount of shares in both Reliance Industries
and Reliance Natural. Lawyers for both firms said then they had
no objection to him being part of the case.
(Additional reporting by Venkat Raman in NEW DELHI; Editing by
Ranjit Gangadharan and Ian Geoghegan)