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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court rejecting the petition of a flour mill observed that the Article 18 protects the rights to carry out lawful trade, however, these rights are subject to certain qualifications as prescribed by the law, and added that the law in this case is Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Food Department, which restricts the petitioner’s wheat quota during the army’s wheat grinding days.

The court said it was specifically clear in the under challenged clause of the SOP that no wheat quota to any flour mill during the days of army grinding would be issued. The SOP also cleared that wheat quota would only be issued to the licenced flour mills after complying with the SOP.

It observed, the SOP reveals that the flour mills, grinding private wheat for the army, are bound to submit monthly grinding schedule to the concerned Food Controller duly approved by the Ministry of Defence for the issuance of subsidised wheat quota.

A letter submitted by the Ministry of Defence stated that the Pak Army has no objection on private milling taking other jobs after completing grinding requirement of Pak Army every month, the court said.

The court observed that the letter said any information about the sale/purchase of the stored wheat under the contract shall not be communicated to any person, other than to a Pak Army authorised person. The sharing of information by the contractor will lead to breach of security and may threaten the life as well as state security, the letter added.

The court also noted that a letter issued by the District Food Controller Attock asked Al-Khalid flour mills to submit information regarding days specified for grinding of Pak Army, but the petitioner failed to furnish such information, and hence the mill was refused to get government wheat quota during the days of Pak Army grinding.

The court said the petitioner despite complying with the SOP for getting subsidised wheat quota was reluctant to provide the grinding schedule merely stating that the respondents were not issuing the wheat quota, which infringed his fundamental rights of trade and business, the court added.

The petitioner mill had failed to point out solid reasons to declare the SOP as an act without lawful authority or violating fundamental rights, the court concluded.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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