The Islamabad High Court Saturday vacated the stay order on sugar inquiry report and allowed the government to take action against those found involved in the scam.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah on June 11 had barred the authorities from proceeding in this regard and issued directives for the commodity to be sold at the rate of Rs70/kg for the next 10 days.
The Pakistan Sugar Mills Association and mills’ owners had challenged the formation of the probe commission and its findings in the court.
The commission, in its report, had accused the millers of earning illegal profits amounting to billions of rupees through unjustified price hikes, benami transactions, tax evasion, suspicious sugar export deals, illegal power production, misuse of subsidy and purchasing sugarcane off the books.
In its short order, issued after Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan concluded his arguments, the court disposed of the petition and ruled that the formation of inquiry panel was legal.
“The constitution of the Commission vide notification, dated 16.03.2020, read with notification, dated 25.03.2020 and pursuant thereto its proceedings and report, dated 21.05.2020 have not been found to be ultra vires the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017 nor in violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioners. The report, dated 21.05.2020 was, therefore, lawfully considered by the Federal Cabinet in its meeting held on 21.05.2020,” it said.
The order stated that the functions and powers vested in the federal government can not be delegated.
“The decision of the Federal Cabinet, dated 21.05.2020, to the extent of delegating its functions and powers to respondent no. 4 i.e. Mr. Shehzad Akbar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior and approval of ‘Action Matrix’ is not in consonance with the law laid down by the august Supreme Court.”
The IHC further ruled that the government is fully empowered to send a reference under section 18(b)(i) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 to the National Accountability Bureau.
It hoped that the officials dealing with the matter will ensure a fair trial in this regard.
‘Courage needed to take action against allies’
The AGP rejected the perception that the inquiry was aimed at targeting the political rivals and said the government’s allies and friends have also been named in the report.
Senior PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, PML-Q’s Moonis Elahi and brother of Federal Minister For Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtyar were blamed for raking in billions of rupees.
“A lot of courage and commitment is needed to take action against friends,” AGP Khan said.
He also explained in detail the scope of inquiry and its benefits regarding the regulation of the sugar industry.
Sugar mill owners challenge report
Pakistan Sugar Mills Association and 17 other mill owners — including PTI leader Jahangir Tareen — had challenged the report by the Sugar Inquiry Commission in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on June 11, alleging that legal formalities were not fulfilled during the investigations conducted by the commission.
The federal government, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar, interior ministry, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), FIA chief Wajid Zia and other departments were made respondents in the petition.
The petitioners called for the sugar inquiry report released on May 21 to be declared void and the actions ordered by the prime minister in this regard, to be suspended.
The plea, filed by Advocate Salman Akram Raja, stated: “The scope of the Impugned report clearly exceeds the constitutional mandate and limitations of a Federal Commission of Inquiry constituted under the 2017 Act, as it trespasses into matters within the exclusive legislative and executive domains of the Provinces. The entire inquiry has been carried out in a completely illegal, unlawful, opaque, biased and discriminatory manner.”
“It has been conducted in complete contravention to the requirements of the 2017 Act and the relevant terms of reference. The principle of natural justice as well as the Fundamental Rights of the petitioners including the right to due process, fair trial and non-discrimination have been violated,” read the petition.