ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Monday sought a reply from the Federation over withdrawal of subsidy on the power tariff.

The three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Amir Hani Muslim issued the directives during the hearing of a suo-moto case regarding the prolonged power loadshedding in the country.

The court observed that Pakistan was a welfare state and the government should not take such steps that could affect the interest of general public. It directed the government to explain the reasons for withdrawal of the subsidy. The court also sought details from the Pakistan Electric Power Company and the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority about the subsidies given to the public so far on electricity.

The Chief Justice questioned that whether the consumers' point of view was heard before withdrawal of the subsidy. He remarked only law will work rather than any one's personal whim in the country. He further remarked how much subsidy was given by the government and why it is being stopped now. People-friendly policies should be formulated in a welfare state.

Justice Jawwad S Khwaja remarked that formulating the policy is domain of the government, but this cannot be evolved against the fundamental rights. “Time has come every thing runs in the country in tune with law and constitution,” he added.

The court also ordered Engro Fertilizer Company to submit the report of its wholesale dealers in all the four provinces, and directed Fauji Fertilizer Company to furnish list rates on that it had been getting gas on subsidised rate.

Advocate Faisal Naqvi, appearing on behalf of Engro Fertilizer Company, argued that production of fertilizer in the country was of international standard. He contended that Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited is supplying gas to fertilizer companies on subsidised rate; therefore the farmers are provided fertilizer at low rate. “In 2012-13 the fertilizer production was 1.4 million metric tones, but the present government has stopped the gas supply to fertilizer companies due to that its production has reduced.

Justice Jawwad remarked that the court’s concern was that when the government was selling a bag of fertilizer at Rs187 instead of Rs342 then whether its fruits were reaching to the farmers or not. The chief justice said there should be criteria for the determination of prices. He said it was the responsibilities of the fertilizer companies to make responsible the fertilizer’s wholesale dealers to charge reasonably.

Faisal Naqvi argued that the fertilizer companies were facing two kinds of problems, Firstly huge amount of fertilizer was being smuggled to Afghanistan and the second was hoarding.

Khalid Anwar said every year the gas price was increasing from 8 to 9 per cent. It was quite unfortunate that some companies besides getting gas at subsidised rate were involved in black-marketing. He said the court could not interfere in the affairs of government, but may give some guidelines. He said, “It is our constitutional responsibility to curb corruption.” The rulers should strive for the equal distribution of money.

The CJP observed if fertilizer has to be provided to the farmers on exorbitant rates then what is use of providing gas to fertilizer companies at subsidized rates. The government should look into the matter in this perspective.

Khalid Anwar said the government could stabilise the prices of fertilizers by stopping hoarding.

The CJP remarked as to why the government does not treat all on equal footing. Gas companies should mete out equal treatment to general consumers and the entities running on commercial basis.

The court, while seeking new energy policy and details of the subsidy provided by the government since 2006, adjourned hearing of the case till Tuesday (today).