KARACHI: After growers complained about some sugar mills for stopping crushing, the cane commissioner has informed the Sindh High Court that he received reports from 13 sugar mills that cane supply position to their mills is not improving.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the cane commissioner to take appropriate action against defaulting sugar mills if any legitimate claim was filed regarding outstanding dues of sugar cane growers with documentary evidence.

The bench also asked the cane commissioner to take proper action upon receiving complaints against non-issuance of cane purchase receipts to the growers.

At the outset of the hearing, Cane Commissioner Jawaid Sibghatullah Mahar filed a progress report in court stating that the Bandhi sugar mill said that the remaining payments of growers would be paid as soon as possible for the crushing season 2017-18.

The bench observed that the mill did not mention when it would clear the dues and ruled that if the dues were not paid within 20 days, the cane commissioner should file complaints in this regard under the provisions of the Sugar Factory Control Act, 1950.

The report further stated that Ranipur sugar mill had already informed the cane commissioner that one of the growers had filed a case before a civil court in Naushahro Feroze.

The cane commissioner submitted that some growers appeared before a committee constituted on the court’s order to examine around 1,300 applications of sugar cane growers regarding non-payment of their dues, but they could not establish their claims.

On the contrary, one of the members of the committee, Nawab Zubair Talpur, submitted that due to non-availability of cane purchase receipts some growers could not produce the documents.

The lawyers for the Ranipur sugar mill contended that there were no outstanding dues against the mill. However, the bench directed the cane commissioner that if any legitimate claim was filed along with documentary proof and the same was proved then he would also take appropriate action against the defendant in accordance with law.

The bench further said that as far as the Seri sugar mill was concerned, the cane commissioner had already filed a complaint before a civil court in Hyderabad regarding non-payment of cane price to growers for the crushing session 2017-18.

The cane commissioner further submitted that his office was also filing complaints against the Sakrand sugar mill for the crushing seasons 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2017-18 due to non-payment of dues to growers.

Some growers and Mr Talpur informed the bench that it was a common practice that sugar mills were not issuing cane purchase receipts.

The cane commissioner replied that he has already issued circular to all sugar mills to issue receipts to the growers in accordance with law.

The bench said that if any grower had grievances with regard to non-issuance of cane purchase receipts, he may file a complaint before the cane commissioner in writing and immediately on receiving such a complaint, the cane commissioner should take appropriate action against the responsible.

One of the petitioners submitted that some sugar mills had stopped crushing in violation of the Sugar Factory Control Act. The cane commissioner submitted that under the law crushing may not be stopped in the absence of cogent justifiable reasons.

The cane commissioner further stated that he received intimation from 13 sugar mills informing him that the cane supply position to their sugar mills was not improving and they were facing no-cane situation since start of the crushing season, adding that these mills had stopped crushing due to non-availability of sugar cane from Dec 16.

He said that this was a recent development and he would examine the matter and take the relevant measures in accordance with law.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2019