LAHORE - Sugar Mill owners had designed a plan to create shortage in country as they were witnessing the increase of sugar in world market. They on the one hand abandoned the supply of sugar to the home market and to stock the sugar at mills and on the other they started making efforts to avoid repayments of loans and advances they obtained from the banks for sugar stock. That was why, when the State Bank of Pakistan called upon them to repay their loans and advances they made requests to all corners of government to put pressure on the SBP for deferring the payment of loans and advances till October 31, 2009. It was a fact that Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) had been making application to SBP and Ministry of Industries and Production (MI&P) for extension of payment schedule. These are the observations given by a division bench of Lahore High Court in detailed judgment of suo moto taken against sugar crisis and writ petition on the same matter. The bench was comprised Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif and Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry which on Thursday last had fixed the retail price of sugar at Rs40 per kg and directed the government to ensure its availability in open market at any cost. The bench observed It is the states responsibility to look after the minimum food needs of its people at all the time. Food subsidies have never worked because of a defective delivery system. Such scheme adds to the hardship of the poor, who are made to stands in long queues for hours, often in scorching heat, only to return home empty handed because the delivery system is defective due to vested interests. The bench further observed that the elite of the country was hardly familiar with the worries that the soaring sugar and other price-hike over the last two months. It was of great concern that to provide the sugar at reasonable prices, the government was issuing licences for the area-wise purchase of sugarcane and loan facility was provided to Mills owners at low rates for payment of price of sugarcane to the farmers. Moreover, 50 per cent subsidy was being given to the sugarcane growers on the fertilizer while section 144 CrPC was imposed in the villages to restrain the farmers from making Gurh and Shakkar(sugar related items) from their own product only to facilitate the Mills owners, the bench observed. During the arguments it has been factually admitted that there was no shortage of supply till the end of March 2009 and the sugar was available in the open market at the rate of Rs.32 per kg. Thereafter rumours used to spread over that the sugar would not be available in open market and the less cultivation in this year also convinced the stockiest to hoard the sugar for the purpose of earning high profits. The Chairman TCP appearing before the bench had stated that hike of prices and shortage of sugar occasioned when India, who was also facing acute shortage of sugarcanes production, floated a tender in international market for purchase of sugar in bulk. According to him the hike of prices in Pakistan was result of increase of rate of sugar in world market. Punjab Govt was striving to supply sugar to the common consumer at rate of Rs40 per kg after providing subsidy at Sundays Bazaars, Ramzan Bazaar and other specified points like Utility Stores only. The dignity and respect of the common man and woman has been jeopardised by forcing them to stand in queues for hours and occasionally bearing rough and harsh attitude of distributors and also baton charge by police, the bench remarked. In our conclusion the authorities did not take into consideration the cost of production because they had already fixed the ex-mill price at the rate of Rs24 to 28 per kg on the basis of cost including general sale tax and special excise duty in the beginning of this occasion, both judges wrote in detailed judgment. This price should remain throughout the year after minor changes on account of storage expenses. Why the price of low cost product is being fixed at high rate for local consumers, the judges observed while adding that if the government had imported sugar at higher rates, then the price of that sugar should be high or it may reduce to the level of local market after subsidizing. The bench reached a conclusion that there was no shortage of sugar in the country and the shortage was created by not expelling sugar from mills and hoarding it at various places in order to earn more and more profit. The bench further held that the federal as well Punjab government had not exercised its discretion in lawful and justified manner in fixing the ex-mill price of the sugar. Concluding the judgment the judges observed: In these circumstances, we are of the considered view that a period of 7 days from the date of the instant judgment is sufficient for the government of Punjab to comply with the order and direction given herein for ensuring that sugar is available in the open market at the price of Rs.40 per kg. The bench clarified that this will be price of the sugar for this season only and in future it is hoped that the government will fix price thereof after considering its manufacturing price. Before parting with this judgment, we may observe that sugar is not the commodity, the use of which cannot be decreased or part with by the people and by doing same the people can defeat the desire of the stockiest in increase the prices of sugar as when there will be no more demand of sugar, they would be bound to sell sugar at low prices within the reach of the common people, judgment ended.