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LPG crisis
HC directs slew of measures for effective distribution *Oil companies to cover all areas, aggrieved can approach CAPD
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Jammu, Dec 19 (JNF): In a suo-moto Public Interest Litigation (PIL) regarding shortage of LPG, Special Division Bench of State High Court today issued directions for effective distribution of LPG cylinders.

In a PIL regarding crises due to shortage of LPG gas, Special Division Bench of State High Court comprising Chief Justice MM Kumar and Justice JP Singh have been taken on record in a spiral binding marked as ‘A’ along with the suggestions given by Senior Advocate DC Raina Court Counsel, for hassle free supply of LPG cylinders to the consumers.

A perusal of the minutes of the meeting would show that there was no fair distribution of the LPG in areas which are at a distance of 20 to 30 kilometers from the distribution point sanctioned by Oil Companies. The dealers opted to have their LPG distribution locations either within the major town and cities or near the highway which is highly detrimental to the consumers of far flung areas. There is a consensus amongst all the Oil Companies that agency or dealer might have been allocated a particular territory or area, yet there is no area or consumer which might be uncovered from the supply of LPG. The basis of the statement made by Anil Bhan and R Koul, counsel appearing for the Oil Companies, is that wherever consumers in far flung areas are not getting the supply of LPG, responsibility of supplying LPG is cast upon LPG dealer who is located nearer to such a consumer. Therefore, it has been suggested that no area of the state is without the supply of LPG.

Division Bench appreciated the valuable assistance rendered by the Senior Advocate DC Raina and directed that state shall pay him fee of Rs 50,000. Division Bench further observed that the ground realities however have been highlighted by Senior Advocate DC Raina by stating that such a happy situation would not result in huge hue and cry. According to Raina, the supply of LPG cylinders to the rural and far flung areas is not satisfactory particularly in the hilly terrain. Raina has maintained that for the sake of completing the paper work such statements are being made but actually the consumers of far flung areas suffer in silence. In support of his submissions he has cited the minutes of the meeting which show that dealers of Oil Companies invariably create sub-dealers or appoint their agents for supplying LPG cylinders to inaccessible areas.

The supply of LPG is often left to their sole discretion which results in black marketing, malpractices and corruption because the sub-dealers and sub-agents are not accountable to any one and they have no status in law. The Oil companies also do not monitor such sub-dealers or sub-agents because they are not authorised by the companies.

In the 10-paged people friendly order written by Chief Justice MM Kumar, Division Bench observed that some directions would be necessary for effective distribution of LPG cylinders, particularly in the far flung areas of hilly terrain. The aforesaid directions are also based on the long discussion which took place for about two and a half hours between all the stakeholders on December 13, 2012. It was admitted position that there were a large number of blocks which were not covered by any of LPG Agency and the process to ascertain the feasibility was in progress. The Oil companies have agreed to make spot distribution of LPG cylinders in those areas or the locations which have not been allocated to any agency and dealer. Such locations and territory shall be identified by the concerned Deputy Commissioners and it shall be conveyed to the nearest authorised dealer. That distributor then has to ensure supply to that area. It was also agreed that the Oil Companies, as per the guidelines, would ensure home delivery of LPG cylinders to the consumers which include those who live in far flung area and issued various directions.

Division Bench directed that there is no area in Jammu province or Kashmir province which would not be covered for LPG supply, as has been agreed by the Oil companies. The area which is not included within the territory of an authorised dealer would not be deprived of supply of LPG cylinders. It has been agreed by the Oil Companies to make spot distribution of LPG even in such uncovered areas at the locations to be identified by the concerned Deputy Commissioner. Once any such consumer is found by the Deputy Commissioner who has not been supplied LPG, then the nearest authorised dealer or authorised dealer of the adjoining area would make spot distribution of LPG cylinders. Such distributor would not put forward any excuse that the area pointed out by Deputy Commissioner is not included in his dealership agreement nor any objection would be raised by the Oil Company.

In its turn the Oil Company may have to release additional supply to such an authorised dealer to the extent he is asked by the Deputy Commissioner to supply LPG on account of supply made by him to the uncovered area. A copy of this order shall be sent to all the Deputy Commissioners of state who shall give it a wide publicity so that it may reach to all those who need the supply of LPG.

Division Bench further directed that any consumer facing any difficulty may request through the nearest police station or Government sale centre of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department. If any such request is received by the CA&PD Department and Police Department, the same shall also be forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner for necessary action in accordance with the directions.

Division Bench further directed that the menace of black marketing of LPG or its misuse for commercial and industrial purposes is also required to be kept under check. If the distributor appoints any sub-agent or sub-dealer then action shall be taken against such dealer as it is impermissible act and has no sanction of even the guidelines fixed by the Oil Corporations. If any distributor is found indulging in such a malpractice then in the absence of any valid explanation he may have to lose his dealership. Police and other government departments shall keep a vigil on the use of LPG on the Halwai shops, Restaurants, Tea stalls, Hotels and other commercial hubs so that the LPG meant for home use is not utilised for commercial purposes or sold in black marketing. The government shall take effective steps in that direction also.

Division Bench directed that the Oil Companies shall file an affidavit disclosing number of consumers which are covered by one dealer and agency and the area allocated to such a dealer and agency. It should be clarified whether there is a uniform norm fixing the number of consumers or area which could be allocated to one distributor. It should also be disclosed by Oil Companies whether there is different norm for the States like J&K because of its peculiar geographical condition and difficult hilly terrain.

Division Bench directed Divisional Commissioners Jammu and Kashmir shall also file the estimated number of dealers which can conveniently and effectively cater to the number of consumers.

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News Updated at : Thursday, December 20, 2012
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