IHC bars govt from taking action on sugar inquiry commission report

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday issued stay order in a petition challenging the report of the Sugar Inquiry Commission barring the government from taking any action.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petition moved by Pakistan Sugar Mills Association and issued a 10-day stay order. The high court also issued directives to sell sugar at the rate of Rs70 per kg for the next ten days.
The court served notices to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), commission head Wajid Zia and asked the government to submit a reply within ten days.
The Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) had challenged yesterday the inquiry commission’s report over sugar crisis in the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The federal government, inquiry commission’s head Wajid Zia and others were named as respondents in the petition.
The petition stated that the federal government violated the constitutional regulations by forming an inquiry commission over sugar crisis on March 16. It demanded the high court to nullify the formation of the sugar inquiry commission.
During today’s hearing, the counsel for the sugar mill owners told the court that the Constitution has stated that the federation and provinces have different rights. The lawyer told the court that an ad-hoc committee was formed in February to take action over the rising sugar prices and that the commission asked the federal government to carry out a forensic audit.
The IHC Chief Justice asked the details about what the commission had said about the rising sugar prices. He said that sugar is a necessity for a common man and the government should take measures in this regard.
Justice Minallah remarked that the price increased to Rs 85 per kg in two years. He asked the federal government if it had any objections to the court’s decision. The additional attorney general replied that the federal government will not oppose the court’s order.
The judge observed that a matter of public interest was being brought forward in this matter and the commission never addressed the reasons for which it was formed.
During the hearing, the sugar mills owners counsel alleged that a media trial was being carried out against them through the government’s special assistants and ministers. He added that the commission had violated the terms of references (TOR).
Pakistan Sugar Mills Association and 17 other mill owners — including PTI leader Jahangir Tareen — had challenged the report by the Sugar Inquiry Commission in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) alleging that legal formalities were not fulfilled during the investigations conducted by the commission.
The commission had issued a report accusing sugar mill owners of earning illegal profits amounting to billions of rupees through price hikes, illegal transactions, tax evasion, suspicious sugar export deals, illegal power production, misuse of subsidy and dual accounts for purchasing sugarcane.
The petitioners called for the sugar inquiry report released on May 21 to be declared void and the actions ordered by the prime minister to be suspended.
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