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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court said judicial oversight in economic decision-making could be detrimental to public interest. A single-member bench of IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah in its order gave go-ahead to the federal government to implement its decision on discontinuing gas supply to Captive Power Plants (CPPs).

However, the court on the statement of Director Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources that the federal government would not disconnect industries’ connections till 31st March directed the counsel for the industries, Salman Akram Raja, to file statements before that date.

A cabinet committee on 28th January, 2021 had decided to stop the extra gas supply to CPPs with a view to balancing the load. The 61 industrial units challenged that decision before an IHC bench.

The companies had challenged the cabinet decision, arguing that it was militates against their fundamental rights.

The IHC noted that the judicial oversight of the nation’s economic interests or policies by a High Court while exercising constitutional jurisdiction under Article 199 of the constitution could expose public interest to harm rather than advancing it.

It added, “The courts may be experts in law and constitutional matters but they are definitely not equipped nor have the competence, expertise and efficiency to deal or in any manner interfere with the economic policies of the government.”

Secretary to the ministry of petroleum and natural resources Asad Hayauddin submitted before the bench that the concept of CCPs was being misconstrued by the petitioner companies.

He said the policy making process was initiated more than a year ago and all the stakeholders were duly consulted.

Explaining the need for formulating the policy, Hayauddin said that the supply of natural gas was allowed when there was an acute shortage of electricity while natural gas was in surplus. With depletion of natural gas reserves and surplus electricity, it has become inevitable to review the policy of supply of natural gas and distribution.

He also submitted that the suspension or striking down of the policy would have profound consequences for the nation’s economy because on the one hand it will give rise to acute shortage of natural gas supply to the general public and on the other the crisis relating to circular debt would worsen.

According to him, those production units that do not have access to alternate sources of energy are exempt from implementation of the policy.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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