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Underlining the “rampant” adulteration of petrol and diesel at fuel pumps, the Supreme Court Friday urged the government to come up with measures such as installing technologically advanced machines that stop dispensing fuel when it is mixed with adulterants, especially kerosene.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur further asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to consider using transparent fuel pipes at pumps so that consumer could see whether the fuel turns pink as a sign of its mixing with kerosene.
In 2006, the petroleum ministry had come up with the marker system whereby kerosene, which is supplied through the public distribution system (PDS), is blended with a permanent dye, and when it is mixed with petrol or diesel, the adulterated fuel turns pink.
But this visual test procedure, the bench said, could not help the consumers since black opaque pipes are used to fill up the fuel tanks. “Even if the colour changes, how would a consumer know? There can be transparent pipes to enable a consumer see whether the colour has changed,” it observed. The Supreme Court suggested that the government should resort to technologically advanced measures and new machines could be installed by oil companies, including IOCL, BPCL and HPCL, to make sure no adulterated fuel is released by the pipes.
“There could be machines that should stop dispensing fuel as soon as adulterated fuel enters the pipe. It would involve updation of the technology that are used at petrol pumps today. But something must be done. It is a very rampant and common problem. Billions of litres of adulterated petrol is flowing in the market. It must be checked,” the bench told the SG.
Acknowledging the court’s concern, Kumar adduced a reply by the petroleum ministry in the Parliament, elucidating more than 3000 cases of prosecution in the last three years for selling adulterated fuel.
“It is there and it is very rampant…now we know there is a big problem of fuel adulteration. One case of prosecution may involve thousands of litres of fuel. It is very unfortunate but the question for us now is how to improve the system,” said the bench.
It added that the business of adulterated fuel may involve big and powerful people. “It may involve very powerful people…even politicians since they are the ones who can easily own petrol pumps. But something has to be done now,” said the bench.
On his part, the SG cited the 2005-murder of Indian Oil Corporation sales manager S Manjunath, who had exposed corruption and oil adulteration racket in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh. He said that the government would consider all the suggestions and would file a detailed affidavit on existing and proposed measures for a crackdown on adulterated fuel in four weeks.
Supreme Court orders probe against SP MLA
The Supreme Court Friday ordered an inquiry against Samjwadi Party MLA Devendra Agrawal for allegedly owning several benami petrol pumps in the name of his family members in Uttar Pradesh and selling adulterated fuel. The court said that an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary in the petroleum ministry shall carry out the inquiry and will submit a report in six weeks. The order came on a PIL filed by Seema Upadhyay, a former MP from Bahujan Samaj Party.