The Delhi High Court Wednesday dismissed an application seeking direction to the Centre to produce records on the basis of which daily prices of fuel are being fixed by oil companies. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao said it was not going into the issue and will not interfere with the government’s decision. The application was filed in a pending petition challenging the daily rise in fuel rates and seeking a direction to the central government to fix a fair price for petrol and diesel by treating them as essential commodities.
During the day’s proceedings, the bench said that while hearing the main petition earlier, it had already stated it was not going into the issue. “We think we should have dismissed the petition on the last date itself. The application is dismissed,” it said. On September 12, when the main petition by Delhi-based designer Pooja Mahajan had come up for hearing, the bench had said that daily change in fuel prices was an “economic policy decision” of the central government and the courts must remain away from it.
It had made it clear it was not inclined to interfere with the government’s decision, saying “there are larger economic issues” involved. The application had sought direction to the Centre to disclose the formula and to produce the records on the basis of which daily prices of petroleum and diesel are being fixed to ascertain whether wrongful gains are being made by the oil companies and the central government.
The plea, filed through advocate A Maitri, had said the government cannot delegate the powers to oil firms for fixing the daily price of petrol and diesel. It had alleged that the government as also oil companies are in a dominating position to manipulate the prices in this manner and public has no choice except to pay the enhanced prices everyday.
The petition has claimed that Mahajan’s representation to the central government on the issue has not yet been decided. The court, thereafter, had directed the Centre to decide the representation within four weeks and listed the matter for hearing on November 16. The petition has alleged that the government had indirectly given “implied consent” to oil marketing companies (OMCs) to hike petrol and diesel prices at their own “whims and fancies”.
It has claimed that the implied consent was evident from the lack of revision in fuel prices for around 22 days in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly polls. The petition came amid a sharp rise in fuel rates. A combination of a dip in rupee value against the US dollar and rise in crude oil prices has led to a spike in fuel prices since mid-August. Petrol price has since risen by Rs 5.02 per litre and diesel by Rs 5.15 — the most in any one-month period since the daily revision in fuel prices was introduced in June last year.