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The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday refused to issue a stay order against a Lahore High Court (LHC) order for the repatriation of three sugar mills believed to be owned by the Sharif family.

In December 2006, through a notification, the Punjab government had banned the establishment of new sugar mills and the expansion of existing mills. The prohibition included the relocation of mills as well.

However, in 2015, the provincial government had amended the 2006 notification to allow relocation. This revision led to the relocation of Chaudhry Sugar Mills to Rahim Yar Khan, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills to Muzaffargarh and Ittefaq Sugar Mills to Bahawalpur.

In 2016, however, former Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf secretary general Jahangir Tareen had challenged the relocation of mills in the LHC.

In Septemeber 2017, the high court had declared the relocations illegal and ordered that the owners of the mills return to their previous locations within three months.

The LHC's decision was soon challenged by mill owners in the apex court.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar has been hearing the petition.

The representatives of cane growers and counsels for mills owned by the Sharif family had told the bench that growers have been unable to sell their produce due to the suspension of sugar mills' operations. They had also requested that the bench issue a stay on the LHC's order so that the mills can resume crushing.

The defence lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, who is representing Tareen, had, however, insisted that the mills be relocated as per the LHC's verdict.

The CJP, in response, put forward two options to resolve the matter: either the cane be crushed after paying a commission to crushers, or that the entire produce that, according to the prosecution is rotting, is bought by Tareen.

Justice Nisar said that until the dilemma of cane growers is resolved, he will hold in-chamber hearings on the petition every day.

He also asked Ahsan to submit his recommendations for a resolution of the matter.

The next hearing has been scheduled for January 11.