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PM Narendra Modi likely to hold key Cabinet meet on rising prices of petrol and diesel

The Congress-led Opposition had observed a Bharat Bandh on September 10 on rising fuel prices.  

 PM Narendra Modi likely to hold key Cabinet meet on rising prices of petrol and diesel
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NEW DELHI: Under attack from several quarters over rising fuel prices, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to chair a Union Cabinet meeting on the issue on Thursday.

According to reports, during the meeting, the Union Cabinet is expected to deliberate on issues like fuel price hike, devaluation of Rupee, Minimum Support Price for farmers, electrification of railway tracks under which 18000-km of tracks are to be electrified in a time-bound manner etc. 

The Union Cabinet is also likely to announce a new crop procurement policy on Thursday. 

Thursday's Union Cabinet meet assumes significance since there has been no relief in sight from the rising petrol, diesel and gas prices which are burning a hole in the consumers' pockets.

The government on Wednesday eluded questions on the subject at an official media briefing here, with Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan asserting that he would not answer questions outside of the day's Cabinet decisions.

"We will confine ourselves to the Cabinet decisions only," Pradhan said when asked if a relief was in the offing from soaring oil prices.

The Minister also chose to keep mum when asked if the Union Cabinet discussed the issue on Wednesday.

On Monday, Pradhan had an hour-long meeting with BJP president Amit Shah after the Opposition organised a Bharat Bandh on the issue.

Speaking to reporters, the Petroleum Minister had recently said that Rupee was strong as ever and the surge in fuel prices was due to external factors. 

In a related development, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to interfere in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking the sale of petrol and diesel at reasonable prices instead of letting oil companies increase the rates exorbitantly.

Refusing to issue an order to the Centre on the issue, a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice VK Raohe said daily change in fuel prices was an "economic policy decision" of the central government and the courts must remain away from it.

The bench made it clear it was not inclined to interfere with the government's decision, saying "there are larger economic issues" involved.

"It is an economic policy matter of the government. There are larger economic issues. The courts must remain away from it. The government may do it (fix a fair price). We cannot issue a mandamus (direction) to them to do it," the court said.

The bench was hearing a PIL by Delhi-based designer, Puja Mahajan, challenging the daily rise in fuel rates and seeking a direction to the Centre to fix a fair price for petrol and diesel by treating them as essential commodities.

The petition, filed through advocate A Maitri, also claimed that Mahajan''s representation to the central government on the issue has not yet been decided.

The court, thereafter, directed the central government to decide the representation within four weeks and listed the matter for hearing on November 16.

The petition has alleged that the government had "indirectly given implied consent" to oil marketing companies (OMCs) to hike petrol and diesel prices at their own "whims and fancies".

It has claimed that the implied consent was evident from the lack of revision in fuel prices for around 22 days in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly polls.

The petition has also alleged that the government was spreading "misleading information" by connecting the rising fuel prices here with the global increase in the rate of crude oil as the cost of petrol and diesel did not go down when crude was cheaper.

The petitioner has also said that in July, she had moved a similar plea, which the court had disposed of by asking the Centre to treat it as a representation and take a decision.

However, since the government had not taken a decision till date on her representation, she filed the present petition, the plea has said. 

(With Agency Inputs)