Srinagar, June 3: The High Court Thursday directed the government to come up with relevant documents attesting as “beneficiary oriented” its two orders curtailing allocation of subsidised kerosene quota to the registered dealers in J&K.
The direction came in response to a petition filed by Jehlum Oil Agency and others who claim to be registered dealers of subsidised kerosene oil and earn their livelihood on the basis of ‘dealership commission’ after the subsidised kerosene oil is distributed amongst the beneficiaries.
The petitioners have challenged two separate government orders dated 22 and 23 March, 2021 related to reduction in the allocation of subsidised kerosene oil quota to them for the month of March.
They allege that the reduction in the quota was carried out in violation of the guidelines and instructions issued by the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
Hearing the plea, a bench of Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey directed the government to update its stand before the court with the support of relevant record and documents regarding distribution of subsidized kerosene oil made in terms of the government orders being “beneficiary oriented”.
The court sought the update while observing that the government’s stand was that the reduction of allocation of subsidised kerosene in favour of the petitioners and corresponding increase in favour of some other dealers was aimed to achieve the target of reaching more beneficiaries.
With regard to the contention that re-allocation made in terms of the government orders was done only keeping in view the objective of the benefits of the scheme reaching out the maximum beneficiaries, the court said the contention was not forthcoming from the pleadings placed on record.
The court said that the government in its objections had also not categorically rejected the claim of the petitioners that the entire process of allocation of subsidised kerosene oil was governed by the instructions and guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas on the subject.
The court held that the authorities in J&K government in this behalf had casually said that the guidelines and policy so formulated by the Government of India on the subject could not be allowed to remain in force for all times to come without specifically verifying and appreciating as to whether the policy was still in vogue or stood revoked or modified.
While the court directed the J&K government to update on the issue, it asked the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to file their objections vis-à-vis the averments raised by the petitioners, more specifically the averment regarding the status of the policy formulated by them in 2013.
Meanwhile, the court asked the government to ensure supply of subsidised kerosene to the targeted beneficiaries was achieved in keeping with the norms and guidelines notified by the Government of India.
The court also asked the government to explore the possibility of supply of subsidized kerosene oil to the targeted beneficiaries by use of Point of Sale (PoS) at sale shops and outlets.
The court also directed the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs to review the allocation of subsidised kerosene to the wholesale distributors and dealers on district-wise basis equally amongst the licensees.
The court sought a status report in this regard by August 23.
Senior counsel Jahangir Ganai represented the petitioners while Advocate General D C Raina appeared for the J&K government.
T M Shamsi represented the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas as ASGI.