ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Thursday rejected Attorney General for Pakistan’s request to suspend the Sindh High Court judgment restraining the federal government from taking action against sugar mill owners in the light of the recommendations of the Sugar Inquiry Commission.

A two-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan conducted hearing of the federation’s appeal against the SHC judgment. Now a three-member bench would hear the government’s plea from July 14.

The SHC on June 23 had issued a stay order restraining the federal government from taking action against sugar mills in the light of the Sugar Inquiry Commission’s recommendations. The government had asked the apex court to declare the SHC order as “null and void”.

During the hearing, Makhdoom Ali Khan representing the sugar mills adopted that if the report makes allegations and give findings then it damages the reputation of his clients. He contended that the government cannot do anything in disregarding of the individuals.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that the report has been prepared by the experts and placed certain facts before the government. He added that there was hue and cry in the country over the rise of sugar price. He asked from the counsel that the cabinet came to the conclusion that the regulatory bodies have to take action but now you wanted to quash everything and the regulators start from the zero.

Makhdoom maintained that the regulatory agencies have their own statutory procedures, therefore, citizens’ rights are protected in the laws.

He said that so far nothing has been done against any party. If any action is taken then mills have reasons, he added.

Makhdoom raised the question over the constitution of inquiry commission.

Justice Gulzar said that when the government feels expedient it can constitute a commission to conduct inquiry on certain public matters. He added that the sugar is a public matter. He further said that suppose they declare the commission was not in accordance with law but the report will remain on the file, adding that it is only compilation of facts.

The CJP inquired whether the report can become piece of evidence.

Makhdoom replied that no, unless the commission members are cross examined about the contents of the reports.

Justice Ijaz said that the sugar mills owners first approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC), but the order was against them, they went to the Sindh High Court (SHC) and raised points which were not in the report.

Makhdoom told that the IHC noted in its judgment that the commission was properly constituted, the individuals’ rights are protected and that the cabinet could not delegated it power.

The CJP asked from the AGP that instead of constituting the commission, the government should have filed the cases directly before the proper forums.

Justice Ijaz noted that there was a capacity issue as before the FBR the cases could take 15 years for final decision, therefore, the help of specific agencies was taken. He said that even the FBR said that the sugar mills were over-charging and double book-keeping.

The Chief Justice said that the mills owners were aware of the fact that a commission is going to be constituted to probe sugar price but at that time no one raised objection. It was in the knowledge of the mills owner about the commission members.

Makhdoom Khan contended that no notification has been published in the official gazette so far, which is mandatory requirement. He said that there are number of judgments of the apex court and foreign jurisdiction which held that notification should be published in the official gazette.

Justice Ijaz questioned that is a notification necessary for start of inquiry. He said that it was in media about the constitution of the commission and the mills owners were not surprised. Inquiry was conducted by the commission but when the report published then the notification became an issue.

Justice Gulzar said that if the commission was not in accordance, then what will happen?

Makhdoom Ali Khan argued that then the report cannot be relied upon by any statutory agency according to the settled law.

The court observed that the notification issue was not taken up in the Panama and fake account cases.

The counsel replied that if the court declares that this issue was not taken there and, therefore, cannot be taken up in the instant matter, then it would be setting a dangerous precedent.

Makhdoom Ali Khan said the IHC had passed the judgment in hurry and did not wait to rebut the federation’s contention. He informed that the sugar mills have filed an intra-court appeal against the single judge order in the Islamabad High Court.

Later, the apex court deferred hearing till July 14 in this matter.