Utility stores can’t sell cooking oil, ghee under its own brand: SC

Published October 26, 2019
Justice Gulzar Ahmed regrets that it was the job of the government to check illegal sales. — Creative Commons/File
Justice Gulzar Ahmed regrets that it was the job of the government to check illegal sales. — Creative Commons/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday reminded the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) of its earlier undertaking according to which it cannot sell cooking oil and vanaspati ghee under its own brand at its outlets.

Headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, the SC bench had taken up a suo motu case on receiving complaints about the sale of sub-standard cooking oil and ghee by the utility stores. The suo motu notice was taken by former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar.

Then the attention of the court was also drawn towards the open sale of used ghee or cooking oil in the market being used by vendors in different cities selling snacks like samosas or pakoras and thus pose a great health hazard.

At this the former chief justice had regretted that it was the job of the government to check the illegal sale of used ghee or cooking oil.

The court, however, allowed USC counsel Mustafa Ramday to withdraw an application moved to seek permission for the sale of USC branded oil and ghee and come up with an amended petition before it.

Earlier, the USC’s previous management had volunteered through an undertaking before the then apex court bench headed by the former chief justice that it would not sell the cooking oil and ghee under its own brand name at its outlets. Then Advocate Ramday had assured the court that the corporation had decided to withdraw all oil and ghee products from their outlets which were declared to be sub-standard and in future only branded products will be on display.

The edible oil being sold at the USC outlets under its own brand name since 2006 was available at a lower price, the counsel had explained.

Later, the USC moved the application before the Supreme Court since the cooking products were the most demanded items by shoppers and that the corporation was facing a loss of Rs2 billion a year due to the non provision of oil and ghee.

The counsel also told the court that there was a great demand of edible oil at the utility stores since buyers who came for shopping at the corporation’s outlets were exerting pressure in view of the high price spiral.

In an earlier hearing, the USC and the industries ministry had also admitted before the apex court that oil and ghee being sold at the utility stores was substandard.

In a report before the court on Feb 14, 2017, the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority had told the apex court that out of a total of 71 different brands of vanaspati ghee and cooking oil available at different USC outlets, nine were found to be non-conforming whereas 62 were conforming.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2019

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