The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to interfere in a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking the sale of petrol and diesel at reasonable prices instead of letting oil companies exorbitantly increase the rates.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao said they cannot issue any 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".
However, the court asked the government to consider an earlier representation pending before it on price rise of petrol and diesel and listed the matter for further hearing on November 16.
The court was hearing a plea filed by Delhi-based designer Pooja Mahajan through her advocate. Maitri Mahajan had filed a similar plea in July but the High Court had then directed the Centre to treat the PIL as a representation.
The petitioner has sought a directive to the Central government to fix a "fair price" of petrol and diesel in line with the Essential Commodities Act.
"Instead of fixing a fair price, the government has delegated the powers to Oil Manufacturing Companies (OMC) and this kind of procedure being followed by the government is unconstitutional, illegal and contrary to the mandate of Section 3(1) of the Essential Commodities Act," the plea reads.
"The government is not playing its true role which the government ought to have played but instead of that it has given a free hand to these oil companies to exploit the public at large and to charge/demand enhanced prices by assuming and presuming the cost of crude oil at the international level."
The petitioner also alleged that the oil companies had stopped increasing the prices when the Karnataka election campaign was going on.
"There is no explanation on the part of government/OMCs why the fuel prices remained static for approximately 22 days during the Karnataka elections. This factual position does establish that the government is indirectly controlling the fuel prices," the plea added.