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Cabinet okays Bill for petroleum regulator

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The regulatory board will also authorise entities to market petroleum products, lay down service obligations for retail outlets and marketing entities and monitor prices of petroleum products.

NEW DELHI, April 18

THE Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared the much-awaited Bill that would pave the way for the setting up of petroleum refining and marketing regulatory board to monitor petroleum product prices in the deregulated sector.

Besides monitoring petro product prices, the board will be armed with sweeping powers to check profiteering and ensure availability of products throughout the country.

The Bill, likely to be introduced in the ongoing Budget session of Parliament, empowers the Government to lay down a broad policy framework periodically.

The Government could also intervene in "public interest'' and issue directions to the regulator as and when it deemed fit, official sources said.

The setting up of the regulatory board follows the dismantling of the administered pricing mechanism in petroleum products from April 1.

The regulatory board will also authorise entities to market petroleum products, lay down service obligations for retail outlets and marketing entities and monitor prices of petroleum products. The board, which will have the same powers as are vested in a civil court, would decide any dispute or matter amongst entities and consumer groups, levy fees and other charges and impose fine and penalties.

Any investor interested in undertaking an activity in the petroleum sector would have to register with the board, which will issue authorisation for marketing of petroleum products and building of common carrier pipelines. The board would monitor the implementation of the plan for setting up dealerships and distributorships of petrol, diesel, kerosene and domestic cooking gas by the entities without encroaching on the retail networks of the existing marketing companies.

The Government will appoint the chairperson and four members to the board who will hold office for a term not exceeding five years or until they attain the age of 65, whichever is earlier.

With respect to pipelines and associated facilities for crude oil, petroleum products including natural gas, the board would regulate open access to pipelines declared as common carrier and regulate transportation tariffs.

It would also authorise laying, building, or expansion of pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals.

According to official sources, appeals against any decision or order of the board could be filed in the High Court within 30 days from the date of communication of the decision of the board.

Oil marketing companies would be required to notify changes in tariffs to the regulator. The regulator, in turn, will be empowered to step in if it feels companies are colluding or indulging in predatory pricing.

The setting up of the regulator is based on the recommendations of the Naresh Narad committee which looked into a whole range of issues to be addressed in the post-APM regime.

The Petroleum Minister, Mr Ram Naik, has already indicated that the Bill is likely to be passed during the monsoon session. The board is expected to be in place in the latter half of this year.

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