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Common court date for Gujarat poll and pumps

New Delhi, Aug. 25 (PTI): Two issues that have mired the government in controversy will reach the Supreme Court’s door tomorrow when it takes up the presidential reference on the Election Commission’s decision to defer polls in Gujarat and the Centre’s plea on the cancellation of petrol pump allotments.

A five-judge constitution bench will hear the presidential reference seeking its opinion on the legality of the poll panel’s recommendation for President’s rule in Gujarat as polls could not be held within the stipulated time frame. The bench of Justice V.N. Khare, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Arijit Pasayat will be led by Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal.

The registry has issued notices to attorney-general Soli J. Sorabjee and solicitor-general Harish Salve though the law ministry had specifically mentioned to the registrar-general that Salve would represent the Centre.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has sought the Supreme Court’s opinion on three questions:

n Is Article 174 subject to the decision of the Election Commission under Article 324 as to the schedule of elections of the Assembly'

n Can the Election Commission frame a schedule for the elections to an Assembly on the premise that any infraction of Article 174 would be remedied by resorting to Article 356 by the President'

n Is the Election Commission under a duty to carry out the mandate of Article 174 by drawing upon all the requisite resources of the Union and the state to ensure free and fair election'

The apex court will also hear tomorrow the Centre’s plea to transfer all petitions challenging the Prime Minister’s decision to cancel about 3,600 allotments of petrol pump, gas agency and kerosene dealerships awarded since January 2000 to the apex court or to a high court.

Another government petition challenging the Allahabad High Court decision to stay cancellation of all allotments in Uttar Pradesh could also come up for hearing.

Terming the government order a “knee-jerk” reaction to the petro scandal, the high court had observed that the Centre should have first investigated whether the dealerships were granted on extraneous considerations.

Several petitions were filed in the high courts of Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Allahabad, Madras, Calcutta, Gujarat and Karnataka after Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s announcement and a few of them stayed the operation of the Centre’s directive.

The NDA government, in its petition, said that “with a view to avoiding inconsistent decisions of the different high courts and district courts, it would be in the interest of justice that the Supreme Court may transfer the said cases to itself and dispose them or in the alternative transfer all such cases to one high court”.

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