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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday reserved its verdict in Pakistan Sugar Mills Association's (PSMA's) Intra-Court Appeal (ICA) challenging a single bench's verdict, which had turned down its petition against the report of the Sugar Inquiry Commission (SIC).

A division bench of the IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the ICA filed by the PSMA, and reserved its judgment after hearing the arguments of all the parties.

During the course of hearing, the counsel for PSMA, Makhdoom Ali Khan, presented his counter arguments in response to the arguments of Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP), Khalid Jawed Khan. Khan also produced different judgments of higher courts to substantiate his arguments.

The petitioner's lawyer contended that only the Cabinet Division was authorised to issue a summary regarding such matters but the commission's notification was issued by the Interior Ministry. He also raised questions on the transparency of commission's work.

He added that how it could perform fairly as director-general Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Interior Shehzad Akber had already expressed their stances against the sugar mills.

The AGP said the decision of the inquiry pertaining to the matter was taken by the prime minister and not by the ministry concerned. He further said the prime minister was authorised to issue such orders of inquiry. He maintained that the inquiry commission had discovered "important facts" during the probe.

Makhdoom Ali argued that any summary without the approval of the federal cabinet had no legal standing. He added that a member was extra in the commission as compared to the notification of the sugar inquiry commission.

The AGP also submitted references of court decisions in his defence. After hearing the arguments, the court reserved its judgment, and directed the two sides to submit their written arguments within three days, if they so desired.

It is likely that the court would announce its verdict in this matter within two weeks. In the ICA, the counsel for the association requested the court to declare the IHC judgment dated June 20 as "null and void".

He further said the commission submitted its report but there was no notification of its formation. In this regard, a single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah had turned down the petition challenging the report of the Sugar Inquiry Commission.

The PSMA particularly challenged the para of the IHC single bench's verdict, wherein it had permitted the government to take action in this matter, and declared the formation of the SIC as legal. In the said para, Justice Minallah had noted, "The constitution of the Commission vide notification, dated 16.03.2020, read with notification, dated 25.03.2020 and pursuant thereto its proceedings and report, dated 21.05.2020 have not been found to be ultra vires the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017 nor in violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioners. The report dated 21.05.2020 was therefore, lawfully considered by the Federal Cabinet in its meeting held on 21.05.2020."

In the ICA, the PMSA requested the court to set aside the short order of a single bench of IHC to the extent of the impugned findings in the aforementioned para of the order.

Earlier, the IHC single bench had noted that the federal government was empowered under section 18(b)(i) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 to send a reference to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) but declared that such a decision had to be taken in accordance with law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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