NATIONAL

Cancellation of 297 petrol pump allotments recommended

NEW DELHI, OCT. 11. The high-level Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to probe 409 cases of "tainted allotments" of petrol pumps made during the previous National Democratic Alliance Government has recommended the cancellation of 297 allotments. It noted that these allotments had been made on political and extraneous considerations without following the rules laid down.

The committee, comprising Justice S.C. Agrawal, a retired Supreme Court judge, and P.K. Bahri, a retired judge of the Delhi High Court, was appointed in December 2002 to examine the question of tainted allotments and submit a report. In its 21-volume report submitted on September 29, it found irregularities in the allotment of 297 petrol pumps of the "409 tainted allotments referred to it for scrutiny."

A Bench of Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari, after perusing the report, found that "almost 73 per cent of the allotments were found to be improperly made." The Bench permitted inspection of the report by counsel for those whose allotments were among the 409 and allowed them to obtain copies of the relevant portions from the Registry. However, the Bench made it clear that it would not entertain any argument from affected parties on the question of facts which had been thoroughly examined by the Committee.

The Bench said that as far as the factual aspect of the matter was concerned "it stands closed." "If we have to go into the factual aspect of the matter again, then there was no need for us to refer the matter to a high-level committee." The Bench also said that counsel for the affected parties could raise objections in regard to irregularity found by the Committee based on the guidelines pertaining to allotments of petrol pumps.

`Arbitrary notification'

In December 2002, the court quashed the omnibus notification issued by the Centre on August 9, 2002 cancelling all the 3,760 allotments (except 409 cases) of petrol pumps, gas and kerosene dealerships made after January 2000. It held that the notification was "arbitrary" and was a result of "panic reaction" of the Government.

Of the 3,760 allotments, in 2,248 cases agreements were signed between oil companies and letters of intent (LOI) holders and the remaining LOI holders were in the process of completing the formalities when the impugned order was issued.

The court had then held that though the decision of the (then) Prime Minister might look legitimate, the reasons were not based on values but was meant to achieve popular accolades and such a decision could not be allowed to operate.

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