`MPs must quit if allotted petrol pumps'

NEW DELHI, JAN. 18 . The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has informed the Supreme Court that the Government had accepted the recommendations of a probe committee which suggested that if a Member of Parliament was allotted a petrol pump, he must resign from Parliament before taking up the dealership.

A three-Judge Bench comprising Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari and Justice Tarun Chatterjee, after considering the Centre's stand adjourned the proceedings by four weeks.

The two-Judge Committee, appointed by the apex Court by its December 20, 2002 order, in its report, had stated that an MP had to attend Parliament and meetings of Parliamentary Committees entailing long absences from the place of allotment of the retail outlet. Thus, they could not run the dealership/distributorship themselves but had to engage employees to supervise the work. "They, therefore, do not fulfil the necessary condition of `Full Time Working Dealer'."

The committee said that an MP, in the event of being allotted a dealership/distributorship of petroleum products, should resign from the membership of Parliament before he/she could avail of such allotment.

Response sought

The committee, after examining 409 allotments, recommended the cancellation of 296 tainted allotments and the apex court had sought the Centre's response to the report.

In its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre said it accepted this recommendation of the Committee as well as the recommendation that the 296 tainted allotments be cancelled. It said that the Government accepted the recommendations since the views expressed by the Ministry and the oil companies had been taken into consideration by the committee while laying down the principles for cancellation of allotments.

Regarding the court's query whether the supply of petrol, diesel and cooking gas in the allotted areas would be affected if the Court decided to cancel the 296 allotments termed illegal by the committee, the Centre said that once the allotments were cancelled, the neighbouring dealers would provide the products and no undue hardship would be caused to the public. The Centre said it would be ensured that additional supplies were made to the existing dealers in and around the cancelled allotments to see that consumers did not suffer due to the closure of a particular retail outlet.

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