Disposing of the 150 petitions challenging the government circular prohibiting the supply of kerosene to state’s fair price shop owners, the Bombay high court ordered the restoration of supply for six weeks. The circular was issued by the food and civil supply department on January 31, 2011.
Counsels for fair price shop owners who filed the petitions, SB Talekar and Umakant Awate, argued that in its circular dated March 15, 1993, the government had appointed fair price shops — through applications — as licensed dealers to sell and distribute kerosene in villages. Under the provisions of the Maharashtra Kerosene Dealers’ Licensing Orders, 1966, the government issued authorisation letters permitting fair price shop holders to sell and distribute kerosene in the villages where no dealers were appointed.
However, following a Supreme Court (SC) order, the government decided to invite applications from self-help groups without disturbing the existing fair price shops and retail kerosene licence holders. Subsequently, the government planned to withhold the supply of kerosene to the fair price shops in the state and allot the same to the self-help groups.
The fair price shop owners have been distributing kerosene for the past 10-15 years and have invested in barrels, godowns and necessary staff for the distribution of kerosene. The petitions claimed that the government’s decision to promote self-help groups may be laudable, but it cannot be at the cost of fair price shops distributing kerosene for the past 10-15 years.
Seeking quashing of the circular, Talekar argued that it was arbitrary, discriminatory, unjust and unmindful of the earlier policy decision. Government pleader stated that the circular was issued by the government in pursuant to an SC order, quashing which would amount to contempt of court. Division bench of justice DB Bhosale and justice MT Joshi of the Nagpur bench disposed of the 150 petitions.