Petrol pump scam: SC okays 112 allotments

Six years after The Indian Express carried a series of reports bringing to the fore a scam of irregularities in the allotment of retail petrol pumps and LPG distributorships by the previous NDA Government, the Supreme Court on Friday brought long-awaited relief to 112 such cases, judging that their "selection was based on merit".

However, the apex court upheld the cancellation of 93 petrol pumps in different parts of the country.

Tracing the history of the scam, the Bench of Justices C K Thakker and R V Raveendran recalled how questions were raised in Parliament after this newspaper carried reports in August 2002, alleging that the BJP-ruled government allotted petrol pumps and LPG distributorship to relatives and associates of political functionaries.

The then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was forced to order the Petroleum Ministry to take steps to cancel all allotments made on the basis of recommendations of Dealer Selection Boards from January 2000 till that date. This resulted in the cancellation of 3,760 allotments, but several allottees challenged this decision in different high courts.

All these cases were eventually transferred to the apex court which on December 20, 2002, quashed the government order, except in regard to 413 cases, which were named in newspaper reports as being mired in irregularities.

On Friday, accepting the report of a court-appointed committee set up to examine the remaining 409 cases (five were repetitions), the Bench said, "The approval by the Committee with respect to 112 allotments is accepted and the cancelling of allotments in those cases is set aside."

However, 297 cases were not found to be allotted on the basis of merit but due to political favouritism. The Bench proceeded to cancel 93 such allotments spread across states including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

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