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UK law firm to defend Indian government over Dabhol

12 October 2004 – The government of India has appointed UK-based solicitor firm Watson, Farley & Williams (WFW) to handle its legal defence against GE and Bechtel, which have filed $6bn claims against Indian government as compensation for investment losses in the failed Dabhol power project (DPC).

“WFW is rated fairly high among those solicitor firms who handle energy-related cases,” a senior government official said, confirming the move.

Dev Cavanngh and Peter Flint, the two senior partners of WFW, will handle the case for India at the London Tribunal. Leading solicitor firm Clifford Chance is representing GE and Bechtel.

The two foreign companies had joined erstwhile energy trader Enron Corporation for promoting the first fast-track counter-guaranteed project worth $3bn. The foreign promoters blame the Indian government for not taking enough steps to prevent closure of DPC, resulting in violation of Indo-Mauritian Bilateral Investment Promotion Agreement (BIPA).

Government had sought 60 days from the arbitration Tribunal at London to respond to the claim of GE and Bechtel.

Certain complications, ahead of the September 30 deadline for filing the affidavit by India before the Tribunal, had developed as its British solicitor firm Evershed withdrew from the case saying it had earlier represented GE in another case.

Indian solicitor firm Fox and Mandal, which was appointed by the UPA government after it took charge at the Centre, had sent a communication to the Tribunal seeking more time. The London Tribunal has given 60 more days to the Indian government recently.

“The documents of the negotiations and litigations run into 70,000 pages for the Maharashtra state government in addition to another 20,000-page document of the central government,” an official said referring to the gravity of the problem and the difficulty of resolving it in a short time.