A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra noted that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has filed an affidavit stating the steps taken by public sector oil companies to conduct regular checks on the quality and quantity of petrol and diesel being supplied by retail outlets to the public at large.
“It has been stated that the Motor Spirit and High Speed Diesel (Regulation of Supply, Distribution and Prevention of Malpractices) Order, 2005 and the Kerosene (Restriction on Use and Fixation of Ceiling Price) Order, 1993 have made provisions to enable the States and Union Territories to take action against malpractices.
“Moreover, it has been stated that the Ministry intends to implement the direct transfer scheme in kerosene in identified districts of different states on a pilot basis. These are essentially matters of policy. The Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is seized of the issue. Steps have been taken from time to time, as elaborated in the affidavit filed in this Court,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
The apex court’s verdict came on a PIL filed by BSP leader Seema Upadhyay who had accused former Samajwadi Party MLA Devendra Agarwal of indulging in adulteration of diesel at petrol pumps owned or operated by him through ‘benami’ names.
On the allegation that Agarwal owns multiple outlets, the top court said that the issue has to be determined by the oil companies concerned and as none of the oil companies were impleaded in the proceedings, it would not be possible for it to make any “factual determination”.
“Whether an individual holds a dealership or outlet benami would turn on an appreciation of factual material which cannot be inquired into in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 32.
“Consequently all that we observe is that it would be open to the petitioner to bring such material as she has in her possession to the attention of the concerned oil companies for such action as is deemed necessary,” the bench said.
The top court also said it cannot be discarded that the PIL has been instituted for reasons other than a genuine effort to espouse an issue of public interest.
“A public interest litigation was filed before the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad in which, it has been submitted, the allegations were identical to those contained in the writ petition in the present case. The writ petition before the High Court was dismissed on April 6, 2011.
“From the averments contained in the counter affidavit, the defence that the petition has been instituted for reasons other than a genuine effort to espouse an issue of public interest cannot be discarded. Be that as it may, we are not inclined to keep the proceedings pending before this Court any further in view of what has been stated in the earlier part of this judgment. The petition shall, accordingly, stand disposed of,” the bench said.
Upadhyay, wife of BSP leader Ramveer Upadhyay, had claimed that there was a need for thorough probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into business activities of Agarwal.
The MLA’s counsel had refuted all allegations.
On how the “oil mafia” worked, the petition had alleged that subsidised kerosene, meant for persons residing in rural areas or below poverty line, has been long used for adulterating diesel and petrol, impacting those for whom the oil was meant, besides damaging vehicle engines.
It had alleged that subsidised kerosene was sold by oil refineries to wholesalers at Rs 14-15 per litre and further sold to the mafia and black marketeers at Rs 25 per litre.