A plea filed in the Delhi High Court Tuesday sought direction to the Centre to produce records on the basis of which daily prices of fuel are being fixed by oil companies. 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. It 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 matter has been listed for hearing tomorrow.
The plea, filed through advocate A Maitri, said the government cannot delegate the powers to oil firm for fixing the daily price of petrol and diesel. It claimed that the public was suffering because the formula, based of which daily prices of petrol and diesel are being fixed, is not known.
“Prices are being enhanced on presumption while there is no actual purchase of the crude oil on daily basis. Public at large is being compelled to pay the increased prices (alleged difference in cost of crude oil in international market + enhanced taxes,” the application said.
It 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. “Government as well as oil companies are enriching themselves unlawfully and illegally” it claimed. The plea claimed that on an estimate, oil firms and government are enriching themselves daily by Rs 1,000 crore and Rs 500 crore respectively by small increases of 20 paisa on petrol and diesel.
“The crude oil is being purchased on barrel basis and petrol and diesel are being sold on litre basis. The oil companies are selling their old stock at higher prices for making wrongful gains while admittedly the crude oil is not being purchased on daily basis from the international market,” it said.
On September 12, when the main petition by Delhi-based designer Pooja Mahajan had come up for hearing, the high court bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao said that daily change in fuel prices was an “economic policy decision” of the central government and the courts must remain away from it.
The bench had made it clear it was not inclined to interfere with the government’s decision, saying “there are larger economic issues” involved. The petition 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.