KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday appointed an amicus curie to assist it on whether federal government has legal authority to take natural gas from Sindh without its permission after the petroleum ministry insisted that federal government had exclusively competent to make or revise any policy about gas.

A federal law officer argued that the federal government can take natural gas from Sindh without consent of the province notwithstanding Article 158 of the Constitution.

During the previous hearing, the SHC had directed the petroleum secretary to come up with his detailed response setting out a legal basis for the federal government to provide natural gas to other provinces from Sindh without its consent after he had submitted that the federal government did not need any permission from Sindh government in this regard.

When the two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha took up the matter for hearing on Monday, a deputy attorney general filed a report on behalf of the petroleum secretary.

Senior lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan appointed amicus curie

The ministry contended that since the subject of natural gas was included in the federal legislative list, the federal government was exclusively competent to make and revise any policy with regard to natural gas.

It further asserted that unlike Articles 153, 154, 155, 160 and 161 of the Constitution which provided an inbuilt self-adjudicatory and self-executory mechanism, the Article 158 spoke of a policy and did not provide guidelines for any such self-executory mechanism as has already been acknowledged by the Supreme Court in a case “Gadoon Textile Mills versus WAPDA”.

The ministry in its reply further submitted that several petroleum policies were approved by federal government from time to time and the 2012 petroleum policy was approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) which provided a mechanism for the sale and purchase of natural gas in the country and also authorised the federal government to allow E&P companies to enter into contractual arrangement for sale of gas to third party customers other than residential and commercial consumers.

The bench in its order said that the ministry of petroleum had filed its report and according to the DAG, it gave reasons as to why the federal government could and had taken gas from government of Sindh without its permission notwithstanding Article 158.

It appointed senior lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan as amicus curie to assist the court on some facts, particularly on federal government’s authority of taking gas from Sindh without permission of its government and whether the CCI had any role in this regard.

While putting off the hearing till Aug 22, the bench said that the amicus curie would also assist the court about the legal validity of the contents of the report filed by the petroleum secretary.

It also summoned the Sui Southern Gas Company general manager (distribution) Abdul Waheed along with report after it was informed that funds could not be utilised for his failure to issue tender notices within time.

Gasification of villages

The bench also directed the federal finance secretary to ensure release of second tranche of funds amounting to Rs660 million in the next financial year to the SSGC within two months for gasification of villages.

The bench issued such directives while hearing around 10 identical petitions regarding non-provision of gasification and welfare funds for the villagers located within five kilometres radius of each exploration and production site in Sindh despite Supreme Court’s directives issued in December 2013.

Published in Dawn,May 10th, 2022

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