SC rejects plea seeking intervention in setting aside SHC order on Sugar Inquiry Commisison
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a plea by the federal government seeking the apex court’s intervention in setting aside the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) order barring it from implementing the recommendations of the Sugar Inquiry Commission (SIC).
A two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed heard, heard the case today.
During the hearing, Justice Ijazul Ahsan told the attorney general of Pakistan that the Islamabad High Court has also given a verdict on the matter. He also asked the government lawyer whether the SHC was informed about the IHC verdict.
To this, the AGP told the judge, that the petition filed by the sugar mills association in SHC had mentioned the IHC verdict, however, the court in its interim order did not mention it.
“There are a lot of allegations against the sugar mills in the commission report,” the AGP told the apex court.
At this point, CJP Ahmed asked the government lawyer whether the commission had listened to the sugar mills. The AGP replied that there was no need as it was a fact-finding commission.
“For now, the commission’s actions have not been ruled illegal,” the AGP told the chief justice. He added that the report was an eye-opener, adding that all executive authorities have been activated against it.
“Has there been any action against the sugar mills on the commission’s report,” asked Justice Ahsan following the statement by the AGP.
The government’s top lawyer responded by saying that some sugar mill owners have approached the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan High Courts and some do not want that action should be taken on the report.
The CJP then turned to the lawyer for the sugar mill owners and asked him why he seeks a stay order as it was just a report by the commission.
Makhddom Ali Khan, the counsel for the sugar mill owners, then responded saying that the executive action has been challenged by some sugar mill owners in various courts. He added that reaching out to the high courts was not out of the ordinary.
But then Justice Ahsan intervened and remarked that the same sugar mill owners who approached IHC went to SHC.
“How can one association approach two high courts?” asked Justice Ahsan.
But Makhdoom Ali Khan told the judge that the court needs to see if the commission was made according to law. He added that the apex court will also have to see if the commission was impartial and if it heard the point of view of the sugar mill owners.
“If these things were not addressed then the court can intervene,” said the lawyer.
To this, CJP Ahmed asked how the commission’s report affected the sugar mill owners. While Justice Ahsan added that the IHC had declared that the commission was formed according to law.
“How were the rights of the sugar mill owners affected by the sugar commission report?” asked CJP Ahmed. He added that what was the reservations of the sugar mill owners regarding the report.
Meanwhile, Justice Ahsan once again asked Makhdoom Ali Khan why the sugar mill owners approached the SHC after reaching out to IHC.
To this, the lawyer responded saying that the sugar mill association approached the IHC in its individual capacity. He stated that the commission report has only given recommendations.
Justice Ahsan after hearing the lawyer remarked that the commission had only done fact-finding. He added that it has also pointed to a “deal” and many other findings
“The commission’s report has been sent to related institutions for action,” said Justice Ahsan. He added that if state institutions issue show-cause notices to the sugar mill owners then they can give their point of view there.
“No action had been taken against any sugar mill owners yet,” remarked CJP Ahmad.
While the attorney general also told the court that the report also named the political allies of the government. He added that no one’s media trial should be held.
The AGP went on to say that the government has been told that it should not issue any instruction to any institution. He added that the government has been told the institutions should work independently.
“Federal cabinet on my recommendation took back the instructions given to the institutions,” said the attorney general.
Upon hearing this, the CJP intervened and told the AGP that the situation right now was created because of the government itself.
“Government should have done the investigation and formed cases,” remarked CJP. While Justice Ahsan added that the formation of the commission was publicised in the entire media.
On the other hand, the counsel for the sugar mill owners Makhdoom Ali Khan told the court that an intra-court appeal has been filed in the IHC.
Upon hearing this, Justice Ahsan remarked that then the sugar mill owners should wait for the decision on that.
While the CJP remarked that the sugar mill association cannot get themselves rid of the report. “Even if the commission is declared illegal it cannot be finished,” stated the CJP.
The CJP told Makhdoom Ali Khan that the regulatory authorities have not been barred from taking action.
“Sugar mills will get nothing out of declaring the report illegal,” remarked CJP. While Justice Ahsan added that the regulatory authorities can take action without mentioning the report.
“Sugar mills have the complete right to defend themselves before the regulatory authorities,” remarked Justice Ahsan.
After the arguments, the apex court subsequently turned down the government’s plea against barring action on the SIC report, adjourning the case until July 14.
The SC also directed that the plea should now be presented before a three-member bench.