Anti-profiteering task force in all districts of Sindh ordered

Published April 15, 2020
The bench also called reports from all the commissioners in Sindh regarding efforts being made by them to control profiteering and hoarding of essential commodities in their respective territories. — Wikimedia Commons/File
The bench also called reports from all the commissioners in Sindh regarding efforts being made by them to control profiteering and hoarding of essential commodities in their respective territories. — Wikimedia Commons/File

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the authorities to constitute a task force in every district under the supervision of deputy commissioners to curb the menace of profiteering, black marketing and hoarding of essential commodities in the province.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar said that the commissioners’ offices should also prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) and send it to DCs for its proper implementation in the emergent situation as the hike in prices of essential items had been affecting the people.

The bench also called reports from all the commissioners in Sindh regarding efforts being made by them to control profiteering and hoarding of essential commodities in their respective territories.

When a petition seeking enforcement of laws pertaining to control of hoarding and black marketing of essential commodities in the province came up for hearing on Tuesday, petitioner lawyer Tariq Mansoor argued that under the Hoarding and Black Market Act, 1948 the federal government should appoint special judges to hold trial of the violators of the law.

SHC observes laws against hoarding, black marketing are not being implemented in letter and spirit

He said that the law was in field since 1948 but such appointments were never made.

The bench directed the petitioner to amend the title of the petition in order to implead the federal government as respondent and asked its office to issue notices to the federation afterwards.

The petitioner further pointed out that the provincial authorities had also failed to implement the Sindh Essential Commodities Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Act, 2005 and the Sindh Registration of Godowns Act 2005 in letter and spirit while the commissioner was authorised to take cognizance under the Karachi Essential Articles (Price Control and Anti-Hoarding) Act 1953, but it was also not being put into practice.

The secretary of the agriculture, supply and prices filed comments through an assistant director of the bureau of supply and prices. Assistant Director Saleem Jahangir also filed a reply to a show-cause notice issued on the last date over his absence.

Assistant Commissioner Syeda Jashia Fatima was also present during the proceedings and when the bench asked her about the efforts being made to curb black marketing, hoarding and profiteering, she submitted that officials were visiting shops for price monitoring and imposing fines.

However, she could not produce details and sought time to bring the same on record. She also argued that DCs had also deputed some staff to check the prices, but again could not submit details.

“In our view a task force should be constituted in every district under the supervision of the deputy commissioners to handle the emergent situation and the deputy commissioner may depute different team/ task force in their districts for price taking and take action in accordance with law against the menace of profiteering, black marketing and hoarding. Some SOP should also be prepared by the commissioner office which may be forwarded to all deputy commissioners for its proper implementation in the emergent situation where due to price hike the public at large is being affected for the essential commodities,” the order said.

The bench further observed that the officers present in court admitted that masks and sanitizer bottles were being sold at Rs50 to Rs60 and over Rs2,000, respectively, against the normal price of Rs5 for a mask and Rs350 to Rs400 for a sanitizer.

“Such statements are sufficient to hold that these laws are not being implemented in letter and spirit otherwise the situation should not have become so serious,” it added.

AD Jahangir submitted that the price list of all essential commodities should have been notified, but it had not been done by the commissioner’s office.

However, the assistant commissioner argued that a list of groceries, fruits, vegetables and eggs was being updated on a daily basis and for bakery and other items they had convened a meeting in the next week for fixing and notifying rates.

While adjourning the matter till April 24, the bench called reports from all the divisional commissioners that what efforts they had made to control profiteering and hoarding of essential commodities in their respective areas.

Builder’s plea against NAB case dismissed

Another SHC division bench on Tuesday dismissed a petition of Zain Malik, the son-in-law of real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, challenging the maintainability of a corruption reference and warrant issued against him by the trial court.

Mr Malik, through his lawyer, asked the court to set aside the reference field by the National Accountability Bureau as well as the arrest warrant issued by an accountability court over his absence.

The counsel submitted in the petition that his client was under treatment in the United States.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the bench headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh dismissed the petition and ruled that the reference was maintainable.

NAB had filed a reference against former mayor Mustafa Kamal and others regarding alleged illegal allotment of around 5,500 square yards of commercial land to Bahria Town for a multistorey building in Clifton.

Besides Mr Malik, then district coordination officer Fazlur Rehman, then executive district officer Iftikhar Kaimkhani, then district officer Mumtaz Haider, then additional DO Syed Nishat Ali, then sub-registrar-II, Clifton Nazir Zardari, builders Mohammad Dawood, Mohammad Yaqoob, Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Rafiq of DJ Builders and Developers are also nominated in the reference.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2020

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