A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mushir Alam, was hearing a petition filed by the federal government last week, in which the Centre had challenged the SHC ruling, arguing that the high court had quashed the notification of the commission’s constitution on purely technical grounds. The petition further said that the federal cabinet had approved the summary for the appointment of all commission members.
During the hearing, Justice Ahsan said that experts of different fields should have been included in the commission but they were not. Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan said the purpose of the commission was not to suggest a punishment, as further investigation in the matter would have been held by relevant departments.
Taking note of the grounds on which the high court had based its ruling, the chief justice said that a notification of the commission’s constitution had not been issued. The AG responded that the notification was issued but it was published late in the gazette.
AG Khan told the bench that the SHC, in its verdict, had said that a member from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was added in the commission later. This observation was wrong, Khan said, arguing that the ISI member had been appointed at the same time as the other members but the federal cabinet issued the approval of his appointment a day later.
The court suspended the high court’s ruling temporarily and issued notices to all respondents, which include 20 different sugar manufacturers. Adviser to the prime minister Shahzad Akbar is also a party in the case.
The hearing was adjourned indefinitely.
Last month, the SHC had declared both the commission and its inquiry report as illegal and directed the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency and Federal Board of Revenue to conduct separate and independent investigations into the crisis.
The court had listed eight reasons for quashing the report, including the “failure to follow mandatory rules of business” and “the failure to gazette the notification of the commission within due time”.
It said that the commission’s constitution was “incomplete”, “biased” and denied the petitioners the opportunity to be heard.
Furthermore, the court noted the “prejudice caused to the petitioners by the report, the action plan and letters which were sent by the adviser on accountability and interior to various statutory bodies and violation and interference in the relevant schemes of law and the Constitution by the executive”.
Govt challenges SHC ruling
Last week, AG Khan had filed a petition on behalf of the federal government, which contended that none of the sugar manufacturers, including the respondents, ever did or could claim lack of knowledge of the proceedings of the commission which also fully interacted with the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) of which the respondent manufacturers were members.
The petition argued that the SHC had grossly erred in law and facts and based its order under challenge on the completely unjustified assumption that the aggrieved party in this case was the group of manufacturers of sugar.
“The glaring yet completely ignored reality is that the real and truly aggrieved party in this matter is millions of captive consumers who are being grossly overcharged the price of an essential commodity i.e. sugar by a cartel of sugar manufacturers completely dominating the market,” it regretted.
Besides the consumers, the petition said, thousands of poor growers of sugarcane were also the aggrieved party as they had been consistently denied adequate payments for sugarcane grown by them with their untiring efforts.
“It is submitted that being contrary to law and the facts as well as the judgments of the court, the impugned judgment is liable to be set aside by the Supreme Court,” the petition argued.