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IHC bars govt from taking action on sugar inquiry commission report

The Islamabad High Court barred the government from taking action on the sugar inquiry commission report, issuing directives for the product to be sold at the rate of Rs70/kg for the next 10 days. 

The 10-day stay order was issued by Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Thursday who was hearing a petition filed against the sugar inquiry commission report.

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) on Wednesday, alleging that legal formalities were not fulfilled during the investigations conducted by the commission.

The commission, in its report, has accused the sugar mill owners of earning illegal profits amounting to billions of rupees through unjustified price hikes, benami transactions, tax evasion, suspicious sugar export deals, illegal power production, misuse of subsidy and purchasing sugarcane off the books.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah took up the case today in which the federal government, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar, interior ministry, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), FIA chief Wajid Zia and other departments were made respondents.

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The petitioners called for the sugar inquiry report released on May 21 to be declared void and the actions ordered by the prime minister in this regard, to be suspended.

The plea, filed by Advocate Salman Akram Raja, stated: “The scope of the Impugned report clearly exceeds the constitutional mandate and limitations of a Federal Commission of Inquiry constituted under the 2017 Act, as it trespasses into matters within the exclusive legislative and executive domains of the Provinces. The entire inquiry has been carried out in a completely illegal, unlawful, opaque, biased and discriminatory manner.”

“It has been conducted in complete contravention to the requirements of the 2017 Act and the relevant terms of reference. The principle of natural justice as well as the Fundamental Rights of the petitioners including the right to due process, fair trial and non-discrimination have been violated,” read the petition.

Shahzad Akbar says action will be taken against ‘sugar daddies’

It was filed after the government announced forwarding cases to the National Accountability Bureau, FIA and other federal agencies to take punitive actions against those involved in the scandal.

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The premier’s aide on accountability, Shahzad Akbar, on Sunday unveiled a comprehensive action plan outlined by the government to take to task the “sugar daddies” identified by the sugar inquiry commission as well as for an overall overhauling of the regulatory framework which had all the while “been in cahoots with the sugar mills”.

Akbar said that no matter how powerful a person is, no matter the party he belongs to, or however wealthy, “no exceptions can be created” for anyone, and this was the line of inquiry followed by the probe commission.

“Transparency is of the utmost importance when it comes to accountability. Before we take action over whatever matter is being pursued, it must be put before the people. That is why the report was made public,” said the premier’s aide.

He said the public, farmers, as well as industry experts had been consulted over an “action matrix” that was developed.

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