Decided on October 14,2020

Sanjukta Kumari Devi Appellant


K.R.Mohapatra, J. - (1.) Petitioner, in this writ petition, assails the selection of opposite party No.3-Sumitra Choudhury as Distributor of LPG of opposite party No.1-Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (for short, 'Corporation') for Subarnapur under Jaradagada Grama Panchayat in the district of Ganjam.
(2.) Pursuant to an advertisement dated 16.11.2016 (Annexure-1) published by opposite party No.1 in daily newspaper, petitioner, opposite party No.3 along with eight others applied for LPG Distributorship, in which opposite party No.3 was selected for being appointed as such. It reveals from the averments made in the writ petition that Unified Guidelines for selection of LPG Distributor of existing Oil Companies in India (Annexure-2) (for short, 'Guidelines') has been published in July, 2016 and the selection was made in accordance with the said Guidelines (Annexure-2). The 'Mode of Selection' of LPG Distributorship is prescribed in Para-6 of the Guidelines, which reads as follows:- "6. MODE OF SELECTION Selection for LPG Distributorship will be done by inviting applications through advertisement under appropriate category in newspapers. Selection of LPG distributor for an advertised location will be done by draw of lots from all the eligible applicants for that location." The 'Eligibility Criteria for Applicants' of LPG Distributorship are provided in Para-7 of the said Guidelines. Clauses E & F of sub-para 7.1 of Para-7 are relevant for adjudication of the writ petition which reads as follows:- "7. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR APPLICANTS All applicants fulfilling the eligibility criteria will become eligible for the draw for selection of the LPG distributorship. The eligibility Criteria is as under:- 7.1 Common Eligibility Criteria for Sheheri Vitarak, Urban Vitrak, Gramin Vitrak and Durgam Kshetriya Vitrak type of LPG Distributorships xx xx xx E. The selected candidate has to ensure that an all weather motorable approach road (public road or private road connecting to the public road) minimum 2.5 meter width is made available to provide access of LPG Cylinder Truck to the offered land for Godown/LPG Godown. In case of private road connecting to the Public Road, the same should be either Owned/Registered lease or having a Right of Way from the owner(s) of the land. Wherever the State Government stipulates an approach road of wider dimensions the same should be made available by the applicant. F. An undertaking has to be provided by the selected candidate at the time of acceptance of Letter Of Intent (LOI) that the Approach "Road as specified will be provided within the timeframe as mentioned in LOI. The Approach Road will be verified for its suitability before the issuance of Letter of Appointment (LOA). It would be responsibility of the selected candidate to ensure that the LPG cylinder truck is allowed unhindered access at all times through this approach road to the LPG Godown upon commissioning of the LPG distributorship. In the event of failure of selected candidate to make available the approach road, the LOI is liable to be cancelled along with forfeiture of the amount deposited before the FVC (10% of the applicable security deposit). OMCs will not be held responsible for any investment made by candidate in the construction of the Godown without having a proper approach road. Xx xx xx" 2.1 It is alleged in the writ petition that the Godown for storing LPG Cylinders cannot be set up at the proposed site offered by opposite party No.3, as no access road to the said plot is available. There are residential houses over adjacent plots on which no road can be constructed. The authorities without verifying the same, selected the opposite party No.3 by drawal of lottery on 14.03.2017. Accordingly, the petitioner along with other applicants lodged complaint against such selection. The Sarapanch of Jaradagada Grama Panchayat also lodged a complaint in that regard with the Collector, Ganjam at Chatrapur on 27.03.2017 (Annexure-4) stating that there is no public access to the proposed site given by the opposite party No.3. The petitioner had also made an application under the RTI Act on 25.03.2017 (Annexure-5), which has not yet been replied. As such, the petitioner filed this writ petition for setting aside the selection of opposite party No.3 as the LPG Distributor in respect of Subarnapur under Jaradagada Grama Panchayat.
(3.) Mr. Behura, learned counsel for the petitioner relying upon Clauses 'E' and 'F' of the Guidelines (supra) submitted that the eligibility criteria of applicants have been prescribed in Para-7 of the Guidelines under Annexure-2. It specifically provides that 'All the applicants fulfilling the eligibility criteria will become eligible for draw for selection of LPG Distributorship'. He further relied upon Clause-'E' of subpara-7.1 and submitted that the selected candidate has to ensure that all weather motorable approach road of minimum 2.5 meters width should be made available to provide access to LPG Cylinder Truck to the proposed site/land for LPG Godown. The proposed site of opposite party No.3 does not have all weather motorable approach road for Godown of Cylinders. The proposed site of opposite party No.3 is surrounded by private residential houses. Thus, the opposite party No.3 does not fulfil the criteria of providing all weather motorable approach road to the proposed site. As such, she could not have been selected for LPG Distributorship in question. Although complaint to that effect was lodged the authorities without taking into consideration the same allowed the opposite party No.3 to participate in the drawal of lottery and she was selected. Hence, the selection of opposite party No.3 as LPG Distributor is not sustainable being in contravention of Para-7 (Eligibility Criteria) and is liable to be set aside.;

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