KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday restrained a committee, formed by the ministry of energy to ascertain elements involved in hoarding and black marketing of petroleum products, from taking any coercive action against two oil marketing companies till June 25.

A single-judge bench headed by Justice Junaid Ghaffar also directed the secretary of the ministry of energy, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, Federal Investigation Agency and assistant commissioner of Karachi (West) to file counter-affidavits before the next hearing on two suits filed by as many OMCs challenging the notification.

The bench observed that a federal law officer remained unable to inform it that under what provisions of law this notification had been issued.

At the outset of the hearing, the lawyers for the plaintiffs filed statements along with copies of various documents, including copies of FIR and order of a two-judge bench of the SHC on a constitutional petition.

Calls for finalisation of probe report against minister

On the other hand, assistant attorney general Nadeem Ahmed sought time to file response on behalf of three defendants while an assistant mukhtiarkar was in attendance on behalf of AC and submitted that the defendant was infected with Covid-19 and sought time.

The bench directed the AC to engage a counsel or seek assistance from the advocate general office at the next hearing.

The lawyers for plaintiffs Arshad Tayebaly and Haider Waheed made brief submissions and asked the court to pass ad-interim orders for the committee from taking any coercive action till further hearing.

They contended that they had already filed a petition in the SHC over filing of an FIR against the plaintiffs and its quashment and ad-interim orders had been passed by a division bench, adding that after issuing a show-cause notice, Ogra had imposed penalty which was subject to a statutory appeal under the Ogra Ordinance, 2002 and to that extent they were not aggrieved as to instant suits.

However, the lawyers further submitted that the notification, issued by the ministry of energy on June 8, impugned in these proceedings. According to the notification, a committee has been formed to probe the allegations of hoarding and black marketing of petroleum products, which the lawyers argued was without any lawful authority.

The bench in its order said that the assistant attorney general after having read out the notification was unable to substantiate as to how and under what provision of law this notification had been issued.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs further argued that the members of the committee also included competitors of plaintiffs including Pakistan State Oil and thus there was a conflict of interest.

Hascol Petroleum Limited and Gas and Oil Pakistan Limited filed suits before the SHC challenging the notification to form the committee.

On June 11, Ogra had held six major OMCs, including the petitioners, responsible for petroleum shortage in the country and imposed fines on them.

Probe against minister

A two-judge bench of the SHC on Tuesday vacated an earlier restraining order against an investigating team probing allegations of crimes and harbouring criminals against provincial minister Imtiaz Sheikh and directed the police to finalise its report by Aug 18.

The bench headed by Justice Omar Sial directed the advocate general of Sindh to submit the report till next hearing.

When the petition against constitution of the second joint investigation team to probe the allegations came up for hearing on Tuesday, Advocate General Salman Talibuddin submitted that it was not the JIT, but the investigating team and the team had completed its probe and not signed the report due to the stay order of the SHC.

A man from Shikarpur approached the SHC and submitted that on the directive of then inspector general of Sindh police Kaleem Imam a JIT was constituted in February to probe the allegations levelled against Mr Sheikh and others in a report of the then SSP Shikarpur Dr Rizwan.

However, he contended that on the instruction of the incumbent IG, a new JIT was constituted on April 14 and pleaded to suspend the order of constitution of the second JIT by expressing no confidence in it.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2020