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ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court against the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict on sugar price. The LHC in its order dated 03-08-2021 had restrained the government from taking action against the sugar mills owners.

The sugar mills' owners had petitioned before the LHC for suspension of notification dated 16.07.2021, whereby ex-mill sugar price was fixed at Rs83.24 and retail price at Rs88.24.

The government has prayed to the court to grant leave to appeal against the order of the single bench of the LHC and set aside it in the interest of justice, saying it is an irreparable loss to the public at large, when the sugar, an essential commodity, is sold on a high rate.

The federation contended that the LHC single bench order dated 03-08-2021 is against the facts and law of the case, and the High Court has erred in law by granting final relief in the garb of interim relief.

Order to fix price of sugar rattles the industry

The appeal was filed under Article 185(3) of Constitution and made the sugar mills owners as respondents and the secretary Punjab Food Department and Cane Commissioner Punjab profarma respondents.

It contended that the LHC in exercise of its constitutional jurisdiction cannot act as appellate court to determine the merits of price determination by the government/Controller General under the Act 1977.

It said that the writ petition was not maintainable against the fixation of price of an essential commodity under Section 6 of Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Act, 1977 by the Controller General of Prices being purely a question of fact in a specialised technical field.

The jurisdiction exercised by the LHC judge in Chamber under Article 199 of Constitution 1973 amounts to interference in the executive domain and policy decisions of the government taken in the best interest of the public at large.

The High Court in exercise of its judicial powers under Article 199 cannot adjudicate upon the matter relating to the economic policies of the executives, particularly fixing price of essential commodities without having the requisite expertise in specialised field. The fixation of price is a disputed question of fact which cannot be resolved in constitutional jurisdiction of the High Court. It is a case of undue gains at the loss of public at large and writ being discretionary relief should be refused looking at the conduct of the sugar mills in causing loss to the public at large. The interim relief in the nature of final relief cannot be granted against the order of fixing price of sugar under section 6 of the Act 1977 at the cost of the public at large.

‘Sugar industry facing destructive propaganda’

The price fixed by the Controller General of Pakistan after hearing petitioners and the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) on the direction of the LHC order dated 23-07-2021 and reasons recorded for fixing of price on the basis of data provided by the 32 sugar mills, cane commissioners, bank record and Finance Division cannot be interfered in constitutional jurisdiction of the LHC.

The price fixed by Controller General of Prices vide order dated 30-07-2021 @Rs84.50 per kg ex-mills and Rs89.50 per kg retail followed the same criteria adopted in meeting held on 07-04-2021 on the direction of the LHC.

The alleged disagreement by the sugar mills regarding the recovery rate, overheads and profit is a disputed question of fact and the price fixed by the Controller General of Prices relying upon the data provided by 32 sugar mills on the average basis and reasons recorded for each component is a well-reasoned and lawful order to pass for the benefit of public at large in providing an essential commodity on a controlled rate under the law.

The jurisdiction exercised by the Controller General of Prices is permitted under Section 13 of the Act and shall not be called in question in any court.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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