High Court issues notice to oil companies and Union government

The Kerala High Court on Monday admitted a writ petition filed by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) seeking a directive to oil companies to supply diesel at its depots at subsidised price.

Justice V.Chithambaresh also issued notice to the oil companies and the Central government.

When the petition came up for hearing, counsel for the oil companies contended that if the State government waived its tax of Rs.12 on a litre of diesel, the KSRTC could get diesel at a lower price.

Counsel also opposed the plea for an interim order restraining the oil companies from charging a higher price from the KSRTC for diesel.

In its petition, the KSRTC Chairman and Managing Director said as the KSRTC was the largest consumer of diesel in the State it had been categorised as a bulk consumer.

In fact, the Central government had issued a notification directing the oil companies to sell bulk supplies at non-subsidised prices. As a result, it had been denied subsidised diesel which was available to other customers, including private bus operators.

The average daily consumption of diesel by the corporation was four lakh litres. With the categorisation of the KSRTC as a bulk consumer, it was suffering a loss of Rs.18 crore a month.

The discrimination in the matter of supplies of diesel was arbitrary and unfair.

The corporation was functioning without profit motive to render maximum service to the public. Therefore, it had to provide transport services throughout the State.

Social commitment

The corporation operated its service on a large number of loss-making routes, because of its social commitment and obligation to provide transport facilities to the people in remote areas.

Besides, it had extended free travel facilities to the physically challenged, freedom fighters, MLAs, MPs, its working and retired employees and others. The corporation was also paying pension to its retired employees.

In fact, the corporation could not hike fares to make up its losses. It could collect the fares fixed by the government on the basis of the recommendation of the fare fixation committee.

The corporation would have to stop all its operations if it continued to buy diesel at non-subsidised prices. And such closure would affect families of the KSRTC employees as well as the travelling public.

The petition also pointed out that the Madras High Court had already directed the oil companies to provide diesel at subsidised rate to buses of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation.

The KSRTC sought a directive to the Centre to withdraw the dual pricing policy of diesel and treat the corporation as a retail customer for the purpose of diesel purchase.

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