Technical question on sugar pricing, cannot interfere: LHC

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has observed that the pricing of sugar is a technical issue and the Court does not want to interfere in this matter.

Judge Shahid Jameel Khan made the observations when he issued a 14-page judgment on dozens of petitions filed by sugar factories and others seeking instructions from the government to control commodity prices.

Judge Khan noted that the sugar price issue stirred up by the mills had already been referred to the statutory appeal board. However, he clarified that any amount that would be charged by sweets to consumers over and above the price set by the government would be determined by the appeal forum and its benefits would be passed on to consumers.

The judge observed that it was extremely unfortunate that the common man in the country who earns the minimum wage had to pay taxes on an equal footing with a rich man.

“Unfortunately, the common man, earning the minimum wage, is subject to indirect taxes equal to a rich man in the country,” the judge observed in a written order. The judge noted that price controls and competition laws were not effectively enforced in Pakistan.

“The inevitable result of which is an unpredictable rise in commodity prices and the failure of the government to bring commodities back to the minimum purchasing power of the low-income class, which is the duty of the state,” against fundamental rights, in particular, by virtue of articles 9, 14 read with article 38 of the Constitution, adds the ordinance.

The judge observed that price controls and competition laws were aimed at protecting the rights of consumers; however, these had to be implemented by forging a balance, as a stable and prosperous economy is the backbone of a country, for which certainty in policymaking and law enforcement is a prerequisite. sine qua non condition (absolutely necessary).

“It is important to note that excessive price control can lead to market disruptions, such as reduced quality and losses for producers, which can lead to investment leakage.

In open markets, prices are controlled by ensuring free competition. The government monitors potential anti-competitive behavior, such as cartelization, hoarding, etc. Conversely, the imposition of restrictions to control commodity prices is necessary to ensure a respectable life for the lower income classes. After having set the minimum living wage, the government is obliged to bring back basic necessities within the framework of the fixed purchasing power, ”added the judge.

“In developed countries like the UK, a ‘living allowance’ is given to those eligible for unemployment to ensure they are able to purchase essentials for life.

The applicants’ lawyer also drew the court’s attention to an important issue, arguing that on the one hand the government had failed to control the price of sugar, as a necessary commodity, on the other hand the farmers. were prohibited from making Gur (jaggery) for their consumption and are obliged to supply sugar cane to factories under the Gur Control Order, 1948. At the request of the court, a Deputy Advocate General stated in writing that the province of Punjab has not adopted or implemented the 1948 ordinance to date.

The petitioners argued that farmers were harassed by the provincial administration whenever they tried to make Gur or sugar (raw sugar) from cane. The federation neither owned nor defended the 1948 order.

The court overturned Gur’s 1948 control order and ruled that there was apparently no force of law existing behind it.

He said the order was seriously flawed and therefore violated fundamental rights in the Constitution.

“Even if it exists, it appears to be in violation of Article 18 of the Constitution, especially where no support price is set for the purchase of sugar cane by the government in order to protect the interests of producers. The 1948 ordinance is held ultra vires and therefore void, being in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. “

The court ordered that all law enforcement agencies, both federal and provincial, be prevented from taking action against farmers banning the manufacture of Gur or Shaker (raw sugar).

The court also ordered the provincial government to ensure that all essential products are sold at controlled and fixed prices at retail outlets across the province, which was its constitutional duty.

The court held that the practice of seizing any essential merchandise and selling it by or under its administration should be avoided, “to restore the dignity of consumers under Article 14 of the Constitution, who are obliged to make the tail with proof of their identification.

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