Sources from the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) indicate that the northeastern state of Nagaland invited "expressions of interest" from oil companies for 11 exploration blocks without the approval of the union oil ministry.
According to the state government, the central government informed in the Lok Sabha on March 10, 2011 that Nagaland has the power to frame rules for government matters relating to petroleum and natural gas within its territory.
But DGH feels that this action of the state government is ultra vires of the Constitution and has conveyed the same to the oil ministry.
It may be recalled that about two years ago, former Minister of State for Petroleum & Natural Gas RPN Singh had told the Lok Sabha that the Union of India is sole owner of oil and gas by virtue of Article 297, citing the Supreme Court verdict in the Reliance Industries vs Reliance Natural Resources case.
In this regard, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India is of the opinion that the term `land and its resources' in Article 371A would include mineral oil and their resources and the state of Nagaland would have the power to frame its own laws regarding ownership and transfer of such land and resources under Article 371A, Singh, who is now the minister of state for home, had said in the house when he was in the oil ministry.