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Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon had, last week, said court can’t interfere in a matter of government’s economic policy

The Delhi High Court, on Wednesday (September 19), dismissed an application seeking direction to the Centre to disclose the formula on the basis of which daily prices of petroleum and diesel are fixed. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao refused to interfere with the government policy on fixing petrol prices.

The court was hearing an application, filed by Delhi-based designer Pooja Mahajan. Her advocate A. Maitri had sought the court’s direction to call records from the central government and oil companies to disclose the formula on calculation of oil prices and furnish details on the basis of which the daily rates of petroleum and diesel are fixed.

The petitioner had argued that people were suffering because these prices were being enhanced on presumption. Maitri submitted that the oil manufacturing companies were selling their old stock of petrol and diesel at enhanced prices while admittedly the said stock was purchased at a cheaper rate.

As per official claims, petrol and diesel prices are fixed on account of increase in international prices. International price of crude oil is fixed on barrel basis, the plea said.

The application was filed on the pending public interest litigation by the petitioner in which she has sought direction to the central government to fix a “fair price” of petrol and diesel as it is a policy matter which involved larger economic issues. The court has asked the government to consider an earlier representation pending before it on price rise of petrol and diesel.

During proceedings in the case last week, the Delhi High Court had made it clear that would not issue any direction to the central government to fix a “fair price” for petrol and diesel as per Section 3(1) the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, stating that only the Centre was entitled to pass orders on deciding the mechanism for fixing oil prices as this was a matter of economic policy.

Noting that the court cannot interfere in a policy matter involving “larger economic issues,” the bench had said on September 12: “The court should stay away from this as it is an economic policy matter of the government… we cannot interfere in the government’s decision… we cannot issue a mandamus… if you read Section 3(1) of the Essential Commodities Act, it says the Central government may pass an order.”

—India Legal Bureau

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