LAHORE: A Lahore High Court division bench on Monday directed the Punjab government to inform it whether policy on relocation of sugar mills was changed in public interest or to benefit some specific individuals.
Earlier, Advocate Salman Akram Raja opened his arguments on behalf of Ittefaq Sugar Mills and defended the shifting of the mills as lawful.
Headed by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, the division bench was hearing intra-court appeals of Chaudhry Sugar Mills, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills and Ittefaq Sugar Mills challenging a single bench order that had in October 2016 stopped shifting of the mills in cotton-growing areas of south Punjab. These three sugar mills are believed to be owned by ruling Sharif family or their close relatives.
Advocate Raja argued that the single bench was misled on the issue as a 2006 notification of industries department, relied upon by the petitioners before the single bench, did not put any bar on relocating of existing sugar mills but setting up new ones.
To a court’s query whether permission was sought for the shifting of the sugar mills, the counsel said the permission was not required as there was no bar on shifting of a sugar mills. He also rejected an argument of the other side that the sugar mills were shifted to cotton-growing areas of the southern Punjab. He said growth of sugarcane and cotton equally increased in these areas. Whereas, he said the growth of sugarcane, as per government’s statistics, had been gradually declining in previous localities of the sugar mills. Many other sugar mills of these areas were forced to stop their functioning due to alarming decrease in the sugarcane crop.
Advocate Raja argued that no violation of law was committed in shifting of the sugar mills.
The bench would resume further hearing on Tuesday with the arguments of Advocate Ali Sibtain Fazli on behalf of Chaudhry and Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills.
Earlier, reports of district & sessions judges concerned were submitted to the bench stating that violation of a stay against crushing process was not found at the three mills.
JDW Sugar Mills of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Secretary General Jahangir Tareen and others had challenged the shifting of the mills. A division bench had suspended the single bench decision and the order was assailed before the Supreme Court.
The SC suspended cane crushing at Chaudhry Sugar Mills (R.Y. Khan), Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills (Muzaffargarh) and Ittefaq Sugar Mills (Bahawalpur) and referred the matter to LHC with direction to decide the pending appeals.