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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

SC allows government to go after those involved in recent sugar crisis

SC has allowed authorities to act on the recommendations of the inquiry report on the recent sugar crisis which witnessed an artificial surge in the price of the commodity. The court has set aside the earlier verdict of the SHC.

A day after the federal government approached the Supreme Court against the Sindh High Court (SHC) stay order which barred authorities from acting on the recommendations of the inquiry report on the recent sugar crisis which witnessed an artificial surge in the price of the commodity, the apex court on Tuesday allowed the government to proceed further against the sugar barons accused of hoarding and profiteering by the sugar inquiry commission. As the SC allows government to go after Sugar mafia, it is to be seen what does the government do now?

A three-member bench — comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed — heard the case and issued a short verdict.

In its order, the apex court directed federal authorities to “operate in accordance with the law”. The court also cautioned the government against taking “unnecessary steps” against sugar mill owners. The verdict annulled the SHC ruling of June 24 which had restrained the federal authorities from taking action against around 20 sugar mills of Sindh on the inquiry report.

The bench, additionally, restrained government officials from commenting in public on the sugar commission report.

The court also directed the high courts of Sindh and Islamabad, where cases pertaining to the matter were pending, to issue a decision within three weeks. The IHC issued a verbal order in the case on Monday but a detailed order is yet to be issued.

Read More: Power corridors’ prolonged association with sugar mills

The federal government had on Monday submitted that different sugar mills intended to prevent Centre and provincial governments from performing their respective statutory duties on the prices of the sweetener.

During the proceedings on Tuesday, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan asserted that SHC’s verdict was “against the law”.

Khan informed the apex court that the government was also constituting a commission on the fuel shortage face by the nation recently but wanted the “stay order problem to be resolved first”.

A detailed judgment is expected to be released later.

Sugar Inquiry Report: PTI’s JKT found involved? 

The government on Feb 20 constituted an inquiry committee to probe into a sudden hike in sugar price and shortage of the commodity across the country. It was asked to ascertain if the production this year was less than past years, if the low produce was the prime reason for price hike and whether the minimum support price was sufficient.

Subsequently, on May 21, the commission delivered its report identifying potential violations of laws by different manufactures of sugar and others acting in collusion or in concert with the manufacturers of sugar thereby being liable to possible legal action(s) or proceedings as warranted under different statutes.

SC allows government to go after sugar mafias but it is important to remember that on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the reports of the inquiry committees tasked to probe sugar and wheat crises in the country were made public on the 4th of April. According to the inquiry committee. There are six groups which control about 51% of the production of sugar in Pakistan, JKT’s Group JDW, controls 19.97% production, RYK Group (Khusro Bakhtiar) group control 12.24%, Al-Moiz Group controls 6.8%, Tandlianwala Group 4.9%, Omni Group 1.7% and the Sharif family owns 4.5% of the production, revealed the report.

It is important to note that earlier this year, following the shortage of wheat flour in the country and the subsequent price hike, sugar had also gone missing from the market. Taking notice of the situation, the prime minister had formed a committee to find out those responsible for the crises.

Read More: Sugar crisis report again not submitted. Will it ever be presented to PM Khan?

PTI’s senior leader Jahangir Khan Tareen has already questioned the criteria behind the audit of his nine sugar mills and the selection process by the committee formed to probe the matter. He also rejected the sugar crisis report. The PTI leader said that he does not object to the audit of his sugar mills under the committee. “Will the commission discover the reality behind all the sugar mills in Pakistan after conducting an audit of the nine mills?” said the businessman.

Later in June, the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) moved petitions before the Islamabad High Court against the constitution of the inquiry commission and its report. Later on, they approached the SHC. However, the SC allows government to carry out the inquiries as per law.