PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday provided partial relief to the CNG stations against the ban on their functioning by the respective deputy commissioners in the province and allowed them to operate three days a week for eight hours.

The permission was granted by a bench consisting of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Mussarat Hilali during the hearing into a petition of the All Pakistan CNG Association’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter against the orders issued by the respective deputy commissioners in the province, including Peshawar district’s, to ban the functioning of CNG stations under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure until Jan 20.

Earlier, the CNG stations functioned from 9am to 4pm daily.

The bench declared that until Jan 20, the CNG stations would function on Fridays, Mondays and Wednesdays from 9am to 4pm.

Filling stations had challenged ban on their operation

It added that as the impugned orders of the DCs were effective until Jan 20, it would see thereafter as to what policy the government was going to adopt for those filling stations.

Like DCs in other districts, Peshawar’s also issued an order on Jan 6 saying, “To improve natural gas pressure for domestic consumers in Peshawar he, under the powers conferred on him under section 144 of the CrPC, imposed complete ban on functioning of CNG stations until Jan 20 under the powers.”

He had added that the violators of the ban would be dealt with under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

A panel of lawyers including Abdul Lateef Afridi, Isaac Ali Qazi, Tariq Afghan, Abdur Rahim Jadoon and others appeared for the petitioner and contended that the orders issued by the DCs were arbitrary and they had overstepped the powers conferred on them under Section 144 of the CrPC.

They said Article 158 of the Constitution declared that the province in which a well-head of natural gas was situated should have precedence over other parts of the country in meeting the requirements from that well-head.

The counsel said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was self- sufficient in exploration of natural gas, which was much more than its daily requirement, but despite that, the government had been resorting to oppressive gas loadshedding followed by the closure of CNG stations.

They argued that the Peshawar High Court, in a 2010 judgment, had pronounced that the supply of natural gas should remain uninterrupted in the areas, which produced it.

The lawyers said the high court had directed the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) to adhere to the letter and spirit of Article 158 of the Constitution while dealing with the petitioners and all other stakeholders in the province vis-à-vis the supply of natural gas.

Peshawar deputy commissioner retired Captain Khalid Mehmood, who appeared before the court on notice, said the demand for natural gas increased manifold during the peak winter season causing shortages.

He added that due to the prevalent situation serious law and order situation was emerging as the people had begun protesting.

The DC said the cabinet committee on energy had decided that gas supply to domestic consumers should be the top priority.

He said to meet the requirement of domestic consumers, a decision was made about the suspension of gas supply to CNG stations.

Mr Mehmood said the SNGPL had informed him about acute gas shortage due to a demand-supply gap.

The bench later decided to allow the CNG stations to function three days a week until Jan 20.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2022

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