Petroleum products are used as raw materials in various sectors and industries such as transport and petrochemicals. These products may also be used in factories to operate machinery or generators. Any fluctuation in the price of petrol and diesel impacts the production and transport costs of various items. When compared to other neighbouring countries, India has the highest prices for petrol and diesel.
Note: Prices as on April 1, 2018. Prices for India pertain to Delhi.
Sources: Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas; PRS.
How is the price of petrol and diesel fixed?
Historically, the price of petrol and diesel in India was regulated, i.e. the government was involved in the deciding the retail price. The government deregulated the pricing of petrol in 2010 and diesel in 2014. This allowed oil marketing companies to determine the price of these products, and revise them every fortnight.
Starting June 16, 2017, prices for petrol and diesel are revised on a daily basis. This was done to with the idea that daily revision will reduce the volatility in retail prices, and protect the consumer against sharp fluctuations. The break-up of retail prices of petrol and diesel in Delhi on April 25, 2018 can be found below. As seen in the table, over 50% of the retail price of petrol comprises central and states taxes and the dealer’s commission. In case of diesel, this amount is close to 40%.
Table 1: Break-up of petrol and diesel prices in Delhi (on April 25, 2018)
|Rs/litre||% of retail price||Rs/litre||
% of retail price
|Price Charged to Dealers||35.7||48%||38.4||58%|
|Excise Duty (levied by centre)||19.5||26%||15.3||23%|
|VAT (levied by state)||15.9||21%||9.7||15%|
Does India produce enough petroleum to support domestic consumption?
India imports 84% of the petroleum products consumed in the country. This implies that any change in the global prices of crude oil has a significant impact on the domestic price of petroleum products. In 2000-01, net import of petroleum products constituted 75% of the total consumption in the country. This increased to 95% in 2016-17. The figure below shows the amount of petroleum products consumed in the country, and the share of imports.
Note: Production is the difference between the total consumption in the country and the net imports.
Sources: Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell; PRS.
What has been the global trend in crude oil prices? How has this impacted prices in India?
Over the last five years, the global price of crude oil (Indian basket) has come down from USD 110 in January 2013 to USD 64 in March 2018, having touched a low of USD 28 in January 2016.
While there has been a 42% drop in the price of global crude over this five-period, the retail price of petrol in India has increased by 8%. During this period, the retail price of diesel increased by 33%. The two figures below show the trend in prices of global crude oil and retail price of petrol and diesel in India, over the last five years.
How has the excise duty on petrol and diesel changed over the last few years?
Under the Constitution, the central government has the powers to tax the production of petroleum products, while states have the power to tax their sale. Petroleum has been kept outside the purview of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), till the GST Council decides.
Over the years, the central government has used taxes to prevent sharp fluctuations in the retail price of diesel and petrol. In the past, when global crude oil prices have increased, duties have been cut. Since 2014, as global crude oil prices declined, excise duties have been increased.
Sources: Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell; PRS.
As a consequence of the increase in duties, the central government’s revenue from excise on petrol and diesel increased annually at a rate of 46% between 2013-14 and 2016-17. During the same period, the total sales tax collections of states (from petrol and diesel) increased annually by 9%. The figure below shows the trend in overall collections of the central and state governments from petroleum (including receipts from taxes, royalties, and dividends).
Notes: Data includes tax collections (from cesses, royalties, customs duty, central excise duty, state sales tax, octroi, and entry tax, among others), dividends paid to the government, and profit on oil exploration.
Data sources: Petroleum and Planning Analysis Cell; Central Board of Excise and Customs; Indian Oil Corporation Limited; PRS.
Tribunals function as a parallel mechanism to the traditional court system. Tribunals were established for two main reasons - allowing for specialised subject knowledge in disputes on technical matters and reducing the burden on the court system. In India, some tribunals are at the level of subordinate courts with appeals lying with the High Court, while some others are at the level of High Courts with appeals lying with the Supreme Court. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament may create an alternative to High Courts provided that they have the same efficacy as the High Courts. For an overview of the tribunal system in India, see our note here.
In April 2021, the central government promulgated an Ordinance, which specified provisions related to the composition of the search-cum-selection committees for the selection of members of 15 Tribunals, and the term of office for members. Further, it empowered the central government to notify qualifications and other terms and conditions of service (such as salaries) for the Chairperson and members of these tribunals. In July 2021, the Supreme Court struck down certain provisions of the Ordinance (such as the provision specifying a four-year term for members) stating that these impinged on the independence of the judiciary from the government. In several earlier judgements, the Supreme Court has laid out guidelines for the composition of Tribunals and service conditions to ensure that these Tribunals have the same level of independence from the Executive as the High Courts they replace.
However, Parliament passed the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 in August 2021, which is almost identical to the April Ordinance and includes the provisions which had been struck down. This Act has been challenged in the Supreme Court. For a PRS analysis of the Bill, please see here.
On 16th September 2021, the central government notified The Tribunal (Conditions of Service) Rules, 2021 under the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021. A couple of the provisions under these Rules may contravene principles laid out by the Supreme Court:
Appointment of the Administrative Member of the Central Administrative Tribunal as the Chairman
In case of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the Rules specify that a person with at least three years of experience as the Judicial Member or Administrative Member may be appointed as the Chairman. This may violate the principles laid down by the past Supreme Court judgements.
The CAT supplants High Courts. In 1986, the Supreme Court stated that if an administrative tribunal supplants the High Courts, the office of the Chairman of the tribunal should be equated with that of the Chief Justice of the High Court. Therefore, the Chairman of the tribunal must be a current or former High Court Judge. Further, in 2019, the Supreme Court stated – “the knowledge, training, and experience of members or presiding officers of a tribunal must mirror, as far as possible, that of the Court it seeks to substitute”.
The Administrative Member of the CAT may be a person who has been an Additional Secretary to the central government or a central government officer with pay at least that of the Additional Secretary. Hence, the Administrative Member may not have the required judicial experience for appointment as the Chairman of CAT.
Leave Sanctioning Authority
The Rules specify that the central government will be the leave sanctioning authority for the Chairperson of tribunals, and Members (in case of absence of the Chairperson). In 2014, the Supreme Court specified that the central government (Executive) should not have any administrative involvement with the members of the tribunal as it may influence the independence and fairness of the tribunal members. In addition, it had observed that the Executive may be a litigant party and its involvement in administrative matters of tribunals may influence the fairness of the adjudication process. In judgements in 1997 and 2014, the Supreme Court recommended that the administration of all Tribunals should be under a nodal ministry such as the Law Ministry, and not the respective administrative ministry. In 2020, it recommended setting up of a National Tribunals Commission to supervise appointments and administration of Tribunals. The Rules are not in consonance with these recommendations.