Govt challenges LHC stay order on sugar price

Published August 11, 2021
The appeal requests the apex court to set aside the LHC order which may cause irreparable loss to the public at large. — Reuters
The appeal requests the apex court to set aside the LHC order which may cause irreparable loss to the public at large. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Tuesday filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against the Aug 3 Lahore High Court (LHC) order to grant stay to the sugar mills against the government’s measure to enforce sugar price and recover differential amount from the mills.

Moved through Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman, the appeal requests the apex court to set aside the LHC order which may cause irreparable loss to the public at large when sugar, being an essential commodity, is sold on high rates.

The petition pleads that the disagreement by the sugar mills over the recovery of over-head charges and profits is a disputed question of fact when the price fixed by the controller general of prices (CGP) by relying upon the data provided by 32 sugar mills on the average basis is a well-reasoned and lawful order, aimed at passing the benefit to the public at large in providing an essential commodity on a controlled rate under the law.

Argues high court can’t adjudicate upon matters related to economic policies

Eight sugar mills have been nominated as respondents in the appeal — Hamza Sugar Mills (Pvt) Ltd, Madina Sugar Mills, Indus Sugar Mills, Jauharabad Sugar Mills, Ashraf Sugar Mills, Adam Sugar Mills, Tandiawala Sugar Mills and Shahtaj Sugar Mills.

The petition explains that the price fixed by the CGP through July 30 order at the rate of Rs84.5 per kg ex-mill and Rs89.5 per kg retail followed the same criteria adopted in the meeting earlier held on April 7 on the directive of the LHC.

The appeal argues that the price fixed by the CGP after hearing the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association by following the July 23 directive of the LHC and reasons recorded for fixing the price on the basis of the data provided by the 32 sugar mills, the cane commissioner, banks and finance division cannot be interfered in the constitutional jurisdiction of the high court.

Thus the LHC through its Aug 3 order denied the public at large to get benefit of the price control of sugar, the appeal contends, adding that the jurisdiction exercised by the CGP is protected under the relevant law and cannot be called in question by any court.

The government regrets that the LHC granted a final relief to the sugar mills in the garb of the interim relief, especially when the high court cannot exercise its constitutional jurisdiction as an appellate court to determine the merits of the price determination by the CGP.

The appeal states that the petitions before the high court were not maintainable as they challenged the fixing of price of an essential commodity under Section 6 of the Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Act 1977 by the CGP, being purely a question of fact in a specialised technical field.

Thus the jurisdiction exercised by the high court amounts to interference in the executive domain and policy decision of the government taken in the best interest of public at large, the appeal argues. The high court cannot adjudicate upon the matters relating to the economic policies of the executive, particularly fixing of price of essential commodities.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2021

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