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Delhi High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon says mechanism for fixing price of petrol and diesel is Centre’s prerogative and matter of economic policy

The Delhi High Court, on Wednesday (September 12), refused to issue a 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.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao made the observation while hearing a public interest litigation filed by designer Puja Mahajan. The PIL, filed through advocate A Maitri, has sought a direction from the court to declare the present mechanism to fix “daily price” of petrol and diesel as “unconstitutional and unlawful”. It also sought the court’s indulgence for fixing a “fair price” of petrol and diesel in accordance with Section 3(1) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

Noting that the court cannot interfere in a policy matter involving “larger economic issues,” the bench said: “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.”

The Bench, however, asked the Centre to consider within four week an earlier representation pending before it on the rise in prices of petrol and diesel.

Earlier this year, a similar PIL against “price rise of petrol and diesel” was moved by the petitioner. The said PIL was dismissed by the Court with a direction to the Central government to consider the plea as a representation and to “take a view” on the matter within eight weeks.

The Court has now granted the centre four more weeks to consider the said representation and posted the matter for hearing on November 16.

It is pertinent to note that the court’s observations come at a time when the prices of petrol and diesel have reached an all time high across the country triggering howls of protests by the common man and Opposition parties alike while the Centre has sunk into a studied silence.

In Delhi, petrol is currently selling for Rs 80.87 per litre while diesel costs Rs 72.97 a litre. The cost of petrol in Mumbai has scaled to Rs 88.26, while diesel is selling at Rs 77.47.

— India Legal Bureau 

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