Plea challenging licence fee hike for petrol bunks dismissed

Special Correspondent

High Court queried why the association took 39 years to file petition

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Wednesday dismissed a writ petition challenging a resolution passed by the Chennai Corporation in 1960 enhancing the licence fee for petrol bunks from Rs. 300 to Rs. 6,000 and for service stations from Rs.540 to Rs.9,000 as a flat rate irrespective of the horse power.

In his order, Justice K.Chandru said the petitioner, Chennai Regional Petroleum Dealers’ Association, had not stated as to why it waited for 39 years (petition filed in 1999) to challenge the resolution. In the affidavit, it had been stated that they were forced to move the court because the civic body officials started demanding the increased rate at the time of renewal of their licence only in 1999 and so far they had not claimed the enhanced rate and there was no occasion to challenge the same.

Writ petition admitted in 1999

The writ petition was admitted on April 15, 1999 with an interim order that there would be a stay on condition that the members of the petitioner association should pay the existing licence fee and furnish bank guarantees for the difference between the existing licence fee and the increased fee failing which the interim stay would stand automatically vacated.

Mr. Justice Chandru said it was shocking to note that the petitioners had not paid the licensing fee as fixed by the Chennai Corporation and were paying on their own rates depending upon the horse power of the motor used in their outlets.

“This must have been in collusion with the officials of the Corporation.”

But for the audit objection, this non-recovery would not have come to notice.

More than 48 years had lapsed since the date of the impugned resolution and still the petitioners were contending over the alleged excess levy.

The petitioners were not entitled to any relief from the court also because they failed to comply with the court’s interim order.

No case was made out, the Judge said and dismissed the petition.

He also dismissed another petition filed by the All India LPG Distributors’ Federation challenging the increase in the licence fee made by the Chennai Corporation in respect of consumer gas storing and selling from Rs. 450 to Rs. 2,000 from 1998-99.

The Judge said since similar contentions were raised in the writ petition also and common arguments were addressed, he was dismissing the petition.

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