ISLAMABAD: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) will resume its inquiry in the cooking oil and ghee sector after the Supreme Court of Pakistan admitted for hearing its leave to appeal against, and suspended, the decision of the Islamabad High Court dated 14 September 2021.
On 30 July 2020, the CCP, taking notice of an unexplained increase in the retail prices of vegetable oil and ghee, initiated an inquiry under Section 37 (1) of the Competition Act, 2010 to ascertain prima facie violations of Section 3 and/or Section 4 of the Act in the edible oil and ghee industry. The increase in ghee/cooking oil prices was unusual as palm oil prices, the primary raw material in its manufacturing, witnessed a downward trend internationally during January - May 2020.
The inquiry team sought information and relevant data from the industry players. Upon non-cooperation from some companies in sharing the data, the Commission passed a ‘Call for Information’ order under Section 36 of the Act in November 2020. However, one of the companies i.e., Dalda Foods, obtained a stay order from the Islamabad High Court against the Section 36 order for providing information to the Commission on 18 November 2020. Later, the Islamabad High Court through its order dated 14 September 2021 ruled in favour of the petitioner.
The Commission immediately filed a leave to appeal against the order before the august Supreme Court of Pakistan and the case was fixed for hearing on 22 November 2021.
The SC granted leave to appeal to CCP in order to consider the various important legal questions which had arisen in relation to the impugned judgment. In the meantime, the SC has suspended the operation of the judgment of the IHC dated 14 September 2021, till the final decision of CCP’s appeal before the honourable Supreme Court. Accordingly, CCP shall resume its enquiry in relation to the cooking oil and ghee industry.
It should be noted that that on 8 July 2021, the CCP had carried out four searches and inspections on the offices of the Pakistan Vanaspati Manufacturers Association (PVMA) in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, and impounded several documents and computer-stored information to assist in its inquiry.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021