ISLAMABAD: Amid reports of hoarding of essential items, the government has prepared an ordinance for taking stern action against hoarders and artificial price hike of 32 consumer items.
Under the ordinance, which is prepared on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, hoarders will face maximum three years of imprisonment and fine equivalent to 50 per cent of the value of seized items.
However, a senior official of district administration Islamabad told Dawn that presently the maximum punishment for hoarding was three months with maximum fine of Rs99,000.
The ordinance prepared to tighten noose around hoarders who involved in hiding stocks of essential items to sell them on higher prices is called “Covid-19 (Prevention of Hoarding) Ordinance, 2020”. It will be enforced in Islamabad Capital Territory. The ordinance has been circulated to the cabinet members before being submitted to President Dr Arif Alvi for his nod.
Thirty-two scheduled items mentioned in the ordinance are: tea, sugar, milk, powdered milk, milk and food for infants, edible oil, aerated water, fruit juices and squashes, salt, potatoes, onions, pulses, fish, beef, mutton, eggs, gur, spices and vegetables, red chili, medicinal drugs, kerosene, rice, wheat, flour, chemical fertilisers, poultry food, surgical gloves, face masks, N95 masks, sanitisers, surface cleaning products, pesticides, match stick and isopropyl alcohol.
The ordinance said: “Any dealer who is found to hoard any scheduled articles shall be guilty of an offence punishable with simple imprisonment up to three (3) years and fine equivalent to 50 per cent of the value of the scheduled articles involved in the case.”
It empowered the special magistrate under Section 8 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1898 to take cognisance of an offence under the ordinance in written information by the office. “An officer may arrest any person without warrant against whom there is credible information that he has committed an offense under this ordinance,” it added.
The ordinance stipulates that: “If an offence under this ordinance committed by a company or body corporate or a partnership or other association or body of persons or individuals, every director, manager, secretary, member or other officer, the principal, primary or beneficial owner or agents thereof shall, unless he proves that the contravention took place without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent such contravention, be deemed to be guilty of such contravention and shall be liable to punishment under this ordinance.”
This ordinance enabled the deputy commissioner Islamabad or his authorised officer to search any premises and seize articles that are suspected to be hoarded. The seized articles can be auctioned and money collected will be deposited in the exchequer.
The ordinance is applicable to individual dealers and corporations both.
The special magistrate will be appointed to hear cases and he will be bound to complete the trial within 30 days while aggrieved party can appeal before a District and Sessions Judge of Islamabad.
The ordinance 2020 also provides rewards for informers in case their information leads to conviction of a hoarder where 10 per cent of the auction proceeds of the hoarded articles will be given to the informer as reward.
The ordinance said every dealer would be bound to provide information regarding production, import, export, purchase, stock, sale or distribution of any of the scheduled articles to the deputy commissioner who can inspect and/or verify the books, registers and premises. The failure or false information by dealers will result in a punishment of up to three years imprisonment and fine of Rs1 million.
Speculative dealings, market manipulation, creating artificial, false or misleading appearance with respect to the price of market for the scheduled articles would also be punishable with up to three years imprisonment and fine of Rs1 million.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2020