ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday restrained the federal government from taking action on Sugar Inquiry Commission report and directed the authorities concerned to ensure sugar price at Rs70 per KG for the next 10 days.
IHC Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah took the petition challenging Sugar Inquiry Commission report. During hearing, Makhdoom Ali Khan and other lawyers appeared before the court and submitted that the constitution made it clear that the federation and provinces have different rights.
Makhdoom Ali Khan told the court that on the recommendation of commission an ad-hoc committee was made in February to take action over increasing sugar prices. He pointing out that the commission asked the federal government to carry out a forensic audit.
To this, court asked the details about what the commission had said about rising sugar prices. The petitioner further told the court that the commission earlier in its 324-page report mentioned a lot of reasons behind increase in the price of sugar, adding that the commission had asked that action be taken against the FBR, FIA and NAB officials.
To this, IHC CJ remarked that sugar is important for every common man and the government should take measures in this regard. He asked the counsel again about what the commission said regarding the sugar price hike.
Salman Akram Raja, another attorney representing a sugar mill owner, said that the commission did not separate the use of sugar for the public and commercial purposes in its investigation.
Justice Minallah asked if the commission did not say anything about availability of sugar for the public then what it said. Petitioner’s lawyer informed the court that the commission did not comment on availability of the sugar for the public.
Justice Athar Minallah asked what the price of the sugar was two years ago. The petitioner’s lawyer said that the price of the sugar was Rs53 per kilogram last year in November 2018.
The CJ observed that the price increased to Rs85/kg in two years, asking the federal government if it had any objections to the court’s decision to which the additional attorney general replied by saying that the federal government would not oppose the court’s order.
Justice Minallah remarked that a matter of public interest is being brought forward in this matter. The commission never addressed the reasons for which it was formed. The IHC issued notices to the federal government, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shahzad Akbar and FIA Director General Wajid Zia. Secretary interior and members of the inquiry commission were also sent notices by the court.
The petitioner’s lawyer told the court that a media trial was being carried out against them through the government’s special assistants and ministers. He added that the commission had violated the terms of references (ToRs).
To this Justice Minallah remarked that the court will send a notice to the government and ask them about it but for now, they should sell sugar for Rs70/kg and added if they agreed to the new price, the court will stop the government from taking action against them till the next hearing.
Justice Minallah further remarked that this court does not usually intervene in the matters of the executive, but asked why the masses were not being provided their basic rights. He observed that in two years, the price of sugar went from Rs53/kg to Rs85/kg and wondered what the commission did if it did not recommend decreasing the sugar price for the people.
The petitioner’s lawyer said that the inquiry commission’s aim was not to provide relief to the common man but to hold a media trial against them. He alleged that a ‘media war’ was going on.
Justice Minallah remarked that the court will issue stay order for taking action against sugar mill owners but the common man should be sold sugar at the price of Rs70/kg. Earlier, Pakistan Sugar Mills Association and 17 other mill owners including PTI leader Jahangir Tareen had challenged the report by the Sugar Inquiry Commission in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), alleging that legal formalities were not fulfilled during the investigations conducted by the commission.
The commission, in its report, had accused the sugar mill owners of earning illegal profits amounting to billions of rupees through unjustified price hikes, benami transactions, tax evasion, suspicious sugar export deals, illegal power production, misuse of subsidy and purchasing sugarcane off the books.