MONDAY MARCH 28: MoP seeks cabinet's nod to set up 'Gas utility courts'
Ministry of Petroleum (MoP) has decided to seek the cabinet's approval to set up 'Gas utility courts' under Utility Companies Act 2010 in an effort to tighten the noose on non-payers, sources told this scribe.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2011
Subsequent to the approval the bill will be tabled before Parliament for passage. "Ministry of Petroleum is preparing a summary to move to federal cabinet to set up 'Gas Utility Courts' under Utility Companies Act 2010, empowered to impose a penalty up to Rs 5 million and/or three-year imprisonment on those involved in gas theft," sources said adding National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources has recommended that the summary be tabled before cabinet for approval.
Earlier, NA body on Petroleum had directed Ministry of Petroleum to seek comments of provinces on draft of Utility Companies Act 2010 within one month's time. In a recent meeting of NA body held in Lahore, Petroleum Ministry had revealed that only Punjab province had furnished comments on draft of Utility Companies Act and the other three provinces-Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - had not yet furnished comments. "Now NA body on Petroleum has directed Ministry of Petroleum to table a summary before cabinet for approval," sources maintained.
According to the final draft of the Gas Utility Companies Act 2010, the federal government, through notification in the Official Gazette, will be empowered to establish as many gas utility courts in a district as it considers necessary to exercise jurisdiction and appoint a Judge for each of such courts from amongst the district and sessions Judges and the additional district and sessions Judges in that district after consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court of respective province.
If a person commits any offence mentioned in different sections of the Utility Companies Act, he will be arrested without warrant or other writing by any officer of a gas utility company or police officer, or any other person whom such officer or police officer may call to his aid.
According to the draft, whoever maliciously causes gas to be wasted or diverted, or, with intent to cut off the supply of gas, cuts or injures, or attempts to cut or injures any pipeline or works, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with a fine of five million rupees, or with both.
The supply of gas to any person found guilty of the offences mentioned in the Act, shall remain suspended by the gas utility company for a period of one year unless the company decides otherwise. Any penalty imposed, every sum declared to be recoverable and every fee leviable under this Act may be recovered, in accordance with the prevailing policy of the gas utility company on application to a magistrate, or any other officer having the powers of a magistrate.
Gas utility company shall have the power to seek information from any ministry, agency and department including the police and the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA), land revenue officials, including patwaris or mukhtarkar, registrar of assurances and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).