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LAHORE: Sugar Factories (Control) (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 promulgated by the Punjab government on September 24, 2020, to protect the rights of sugarcane growers, has expired on Tuesday, as it could not be converted into a law by the Punjab Assembly.

Sources told Business Recorder that the ordinance was first promulgated on September 24, 2020, for a period of three months, which was later extended for another three months so as in the meanwhile it can be debated by the legislators and approved as an act. Under the Constitution of Pakistan, the ordinances can be extended only for once.

Under the ordinance, delay in payment of dues to sugarcane farmers or any illegal deduction was made punishable awarding imprisonment for three years and a fine of Rs 5 million. The ordinance has made major changes in the Punjab Sugar Factories Act, 1950, which according to some growers’ organization was toothless and ineffective.

Sugar mills were required to issue a formal receipt for receipt of sugarcane. Sugarcane dues had to be credited to the farmer’s account. While sugar mill agents were also asked to issue formal receipts on sugarcane as issuing informal receipts to farmers was also made a crime.

The ordinance states that the cane commissioner has been given the power to determine and collect the dues of the farmers. The dues can be recovered through the Land Revenue Act. If the dues of the farmers are not paid, the mill owner can be arrested and the mill can be forfeited. The deputy commissioners will be bound to carry out arrest and bail orders.

According to the amended ordinance, the delayed start of sugarcane crushing was made punishable by three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5 million.

Under the Sugar Factories Act, the offense has been made non-bailable and inviolable police and the cases have been transferred from Magistrate First Class to Section 30 Magistrate.

Under the previous law, the offenses were bailable and non-cognizable, which meant that FIR could not be registered against the sugar mills for various offences and permission of the concerned Magistrate was required to institute criminal proceedings even for such grave offences as massive deductions from the weight of sugarcane or non-payment of sugarcane dues.

Taking advantage of the strict law, the Cane Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner took effective action for recovery of the cane growers’ dues.

Cane Commissioner Punjab Muhammad Zaman Wattoo while talking to Business Recorder said that despite lapse of this ordinance, steps taken by his office against the mills on any illegality under the tenure of this ordinance would be dealt under the same law.

He added that proceedings on FIRs or any other wrong doings would continue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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