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Gujarat HC judge recuses self from ArcelorMittal Nippon plea

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 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 licences on behalf of and in trust for petitioner's exclusive use and benefit," AMNSIL said.

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