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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet has constituted two-member ministerial committee to hear appeals against the decisions of Director General Trade Organizations (DGTO), official sources told Business Recorder.

The committee will comprise of Minister for Industries and Production, Hammad Azhar and Minister for Science and Technology, Ch. Fawad Hussain. However, Prime Minister’s Advisor on Commerce, Abdul Razak Dawood and Secretary Commerce will be special invitees.

The Cabinet took the decision on a summary of Ministry of Commerce, which is the administrative Ministry of DGTO.

The Commerce Division apprised the Cabinet that the Trade Organizations are regulated under the Trade Organizations Act (TOA), 2013. Section 13 of TOA 2013 which empowers the federal government to appoint an officer to perform functions of the Regulator under this Act. The federal government through a notification of March 6, 2013 had appointed Director General Trade Organizations to perform functions and exercise powers vested in the Regulator under the TOA 2013. . Moreover, Federal Government, in exercise of powers under Section 22(1) of TOA, 2013, through a notification of March 6, 2013, had delegated all its powers except those specified under subsections (2) and (3) of Section 21 of TOA 2013 to the Regulator of Trade Organizations. Subsections (2) and (3) of section 21 of TOA 2013 allow filing of appeal before Federal Government against decisions of the Regulator.

In order to ascertain whether Secretary, Ministry of Commerce was competent to hear such appeals, a reference was sent to Law Division seeking its legal opinion on the matter. Law Division had intimated that the Federal Government, as provided in Article 90(1) of the Constitution of Pakistan consists of the Prime Minister and the Federal Ministers, ie, the Cabinet. Hence, Secretary Ministry of Commerce was not competent to hear such appeals.

Furthermore, Law Division had proposed that in order for Secretary Commerce to exercise such powers under Section 21 of TOA, 2013, suitable amendments in the said Act needs to be incorporated substituting the “Federal Government” for “Secretary Commerce.” However, for the period before such amendments were passed by the appropriate legislature, a committee of the Federal Cabinet should be constituted in accordance with rule 17(2) of the Rules of Business, 1973. The Cabinet Committee so constituted could decide the cases under rule 17(1)(c) and all such decisions to be referred to the Federal Cabinet for ratification.

After explaining the background Commerce Division solicited the approval of the Cabinet to the constitution of a committee of the Federal Cabinet, in accordance with, rule 17(2) of the Rules of Business, 1973, for hearing appeals under subsections (2) and (3) of section 21 of TOA 2013.

During discussion, a member objected to proposed amendment in the law substituting Secretary Commerce as appellate authority instead of Federal Government. The point of view was endorsed by other members as well who highlighted that regulatory functions should be at arm’s length from policy-making and operations. Minister for Law & Justice clarified that first appeal was usually departmental and the second appeal rested with Appellate Tribunal. In any case the arrangement being proposed was only interim and further debate could be held at the time of amendments in the law.

After discussion, the Cabinet constituted the following Committee for hearing appeals under subsections (2) and (3) of section 21 of TOA 2013: Minister for Industries (Convener); and (ii) Minister for Science and Technology whereas Prime Minister Advisor on Commerce and Secretary Commerce will be invited as special invitees .

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021