ISLAMABAD - Expressing concern over price hike of essential food items, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja has said the Supreme Court will interfere on issues if the government functionaries show inaction.

Justice Jawwad was heading a three-judge bench that heard Jamaat-e-Islami petition on upsurge in flour price. He said, “The apex court will interfere for the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights.”

In view of the precarious state of citizens, the court passed an order in October last year, urging the government to take measures to reduce the flour price as the people were finding it difficult to survive and ward off starvation.

The bench directed Additional Attorney General Attique Shah to submit a comprehensive report with the coordination of the advocate generals of all the provinces on their governments’ efforts to control prices of essential food items and utilisation of forest and agriculture land.

The judge said the people were dying of hunger as the prices of daily commodities were rising, adding no one had concern for them. He said it was the responsibility of the state to provide food, clothing and shelter to its citizens.

Article 38 (d) of the Constitution says, “The state shall provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race.”

Justice Jawwad said the measures should be taken to reduce prices of essential food items and control the lavish and wayward expenditure of the government functionaries. “Alleviate the burden on citizens of high price, primarily of essential food items,” he asserted.

He said the Supreme Court was always blamed for interfering in the executive domain, but it did so due to inaction of the government functionaries. “Due to the increased prices of daily-use commodities the poor cannot provide three-time meal to their family members,” he added.

Attique Shah told the court that the Ministry of National Food Security and Research held a meeting with the chief secretaries of all the provinces, taking cognizance of the people’s difficulties. He said in pursuance of the court’s order, the flour price had been reduced from Rs 50 per kg to Rs 42 per kg. The AG Punjab informed the court that per kg flour price was Rs 36 instead of Rs 42 in the province.

Justice Jawwad said they would examine whether it had left positive impacts on the people’s lives. He said more steps were required to control profiteering.

The AAG further said the government had fixed Rs 1,200 for 40kg wheat support price for farmers. He, however, contended that controlling the price hike was the responsibility of the provinces as after 18th Amendment many ministries, including food and agriculture, had been devolved to the provinces.

The bench questioned how the provincial government could control the flour prices when the federal government fixed the wheat price. The court said thousands of acres of land remained uncultivated every year. It directed the additional attorney general to coordinate with the law officers of all the provinces and file a consolidated report about the prices of food items. The case was adjourned till April 14.