Petrol, diesel prices at highest level, oil ministry seeks excise duty cuts

New Delhi, Jan 23: Petrol prices today hit the highest level since the BJP government came to power in 2014, and diesel touched a record high of Rs 63.20 a litre, prompting the oil ministry to seek a cut in excise duty.      Petrol price rose to Rs 72.38 per litre in Delhi, highest since March 2014, according to daily fuel price list of state-owned oil firms.      Rates have risen by Rs 3.31 per litre since mid-December. In Mumbai, prices have crossed Rs 80-mark -- costliest in the country.      Diesel is being sold at Rs 67.30 in Mumbai, where the local sales tax or VAT rates are higher.      Since mid-December, diesel rates have jumped Rs 4.86 a litre, according to oil companies.      The spurt in rates, caused by the rally in international oil prices, has led to the oil ministry asking the finance ministry for a cut in excise duty in the Union Budget 2018-19, to be presented in Parliament next week.      The reduction sought is part of the pre-Budget memorandum submitted by the ministry for the consideration of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, officials said.      Oil Secretary K D Tripathi had yesterday stated that the ministry has forwarded a set of recommendation it had received from the industry. He however refused to give details.      The central government levies Rs 19.48 per litre excise duty on petrol and Rs 15.33 on diesel.      VAT on petrol in Delhi is Rs 15.39 per litre while on diesel it is Rs 9.32.      Brent and US West Texas Intermediate crude -- two of the most traded benchmark, today rose to USD 69.41 per barrel and and USD 63.99 respectively. Brent is not far off the January 15 three-year high of USD 70.37 a barrel. WTI had hit its highest since December 2014, on January 16 at USD 64.89 a barrel.      The rally in oil prices has renewed calls to the government to cut excise duty to cushion the burden on common man, the officials said.      The BJP-led NDA government had raised excise duty nine times between November 2014 and January 2016 to shore up finances as global oil prices fell, but cut the tax only once in October last year by Rs 2 per litre.      The excise duty in October 2017 was cut when petrol price had reached Rs 70.88 per litre in Delhi and diesel was priced at Rs 59.14. -- PTI