PIL seeks Court directions to ensure that LPG distributors make home deliveries

Rules have been misinterpreted to the disadvantage of consumers, petitioner contends

Gangtok, 07 Aug:

A Public Interest Litigation filed in the High Court of Sikkim has accused the Food and Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department, in connivance with the LPG cylinder distributors, of violating norms laid down by the Indian Oil Corporation and over-charging consumers here. The PIL contends that since the distributers were already being subsidised by the IOCL for home delivery of LPG refills, it was wrong for it to still charge transportation cost from consumers.

Prem Goyal, a senior Gangtokian, has approached the High Court seeking that directions be passed to ensure delivery of refilled LPG cylinders to the registered addresses of consumers as mandated by IOCL and ending the system of dropping cylinders off at road-heads and requiring people to queue for their refills. The PIL argues that the Notification of the Food and Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department which allows for levying of transportation cost from consumers also be quashed.

The division bench of the High Court, following the PIL, had issued a notice on 04 July last month itself to the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, IOCL, State Government and 12 Distributors, including the State Trading Corporation of Sikkim. Now, the division bench comprising of Chief Justice Satish Kumar Agnihotri and Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai has given two weeks’ time for filing of counter affidavit and two weeks thereafter for the petitioner to file a rejoinder.

In the PIL, the petitioner has contended that as per the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Regulation of Supply and Distribution) Order 2000, the delivery of LPG Cylinder is required to be done at the registered address of the consumers. Mr Goyal has also pointed out that rules do not allow distributors to sell LPG at a price higher than that fixed by the Government Oil Company or the parallel marketer.

He further argues that the Regulation of Supply and Distribution Order 2000, Section 9, sub-section (e) clearly states that: “No distributors shall without prior written permission of the concerned Government Oil Company, refuse to make home delivery at the registered address of the consumer, as registered with the distributor: Provide that the State Government may, fix additional charges for home delivery of LPG Cylinders to the consumers, as it may deem necessary in view of the geographical terrain and or the distance in the area of distribution”.

As any consumer in Sikkim will vouch, this is only partially followed in Sikkim where the additional charges have been fixed, but home delivery ignored.

The PIL complains of as much when it points out that even after levying the transportation charges, the respondents (the distributers) are not delivering the LPG refills to the registered addresses of the consumers.

The petitioner states that the Food and Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department has made a wrong interpretation of the rules under the shelter of the LPG Regulation of Supply and Distribution Order 2000 imposing additional transportation cost on retail sale price for delivery of domestic LPG refills only till distribution points across the state.

It is also highlighted in the petition that the consumers in Sikkim have been denied the facilities of home delivery within the fixed price regime as per IOCL norms, and that some consumers in Sikkim need to pay nearly Rs. 300 extra to porters due to unfair trade practice of non-delivery of LPG cylinder by the distributors to their homes.

Mr. Goyal is representing himself as petitioner-in-person to present his case in public interest.

IOCL, Kolkata, in its RTI replies to the petitioner clearly stated that all the Regular LPG Distributors of IOCL are required to supply refill on home delivery basis to all registered customers residing in their respective operating areas as advised by Oil Marketing Companies, for which customer has to pay the Retail Selling Price of LPG refills in that market which is inclusive of delivery charges.

Only under exceptional conditions, filled cylinders deliveries on cash-on-carry basis (non-home delivery) from regular LPG distributors are permitted, wherein the delivery charges (currently) of Rs. 18 per 14.2 kg cylinder will not be charged.

The Food and Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department, vide its notification, allows for transportation charges of Rs. 27 beyond 500 meters up to 10 Kms, Rs. 42 beyond 10 kms to 25 Kms, Rs. 57 beyond 25 kms to 40 Kms and Rs. 77 exceeding 40 kms in radius.

The petitioner has also prayed the High Court to issue writ of mandamus to make the rate of the LPG cylinders equal in all parts of the state.