The Supreme Court Tuesday empowered oil companies to cancel the allotment of 81 petrol pumps that a government panel has said were made in an improper manner.

The court said the companies could accept the recommendations of the enquiry committee that probed 178 petrol pump allotments. Of these, the panel had found 81 allotments were tainted.

The allotments were made during the tenure of the previous National Democratic Alliance government.

The committee, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge S.C. Agarwal, had found that the 81 allotments were made for extraneous considerations and suggested their cancellation.

A three-member bench comprising judges Y.K. Sabharwal, D.M. Dharmadhikari and B.N. Srikrishna said the oil companies could cancel the allotments.

In respect of 97 allotments approved by the Agarwal committee but stayed by the apex court, they could be continued with the original allottees as no objections had been received so far.

To facilitate the cancellation of 81 dealerships and the continuance of the others, the bench vacated its interim stay in regard to these allotments.

The apex court in 2003 had ordered status quo with regard to over 400 petrol pump dealerships when petitions were filed challenging the government's decision to cancel all allotments made between 2000 and 2003.

Objections were invited from the allottees and based on their responses, the court issued directions to the oil companies.

Meanwhile, amicus curiae Gopal Subramanian, wanted the court to issue appropriate directions in respect of 23 issues arising for consideration on the basis of applications from parties in the matter.

The bench asked the parties to file objections in four weeks and posted the matter for further hearing after six weeks.