ISLAMABAD-The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday (today) will resume hearing in Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA)’s Intra Court Appeal (ICA) challenging a single bench’s verdict which had turned down its petition against the report of Sugar Inquiry Commission (SIC).

A division bench of the IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb will conduct hearing of the ICA filed by the MSMA.

On the previous hearing, the court had directed the sugar mills’ lawyer to conclude his arguments till Tuesday and after this, attorney general of Pakistan would start his arguments.

In the ICA, counsel for the association requested the court to declare IHC judgment dated June 20 as null and void. He further said that the commission submitted its report but there was no notification of its formation. In this regard, a single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah had turned down the petition challenging the report of Sugar Inquiry Commission.

The PSMA particularly challenged the para of IHC single bench’s verdict, wherein, it had permitted the government to take action in this matter and declared the formation of the SIC as legal. In the said para, Justice Athar had noted, “The constitution of the Commission vide notification, dated 16.03.2020, read with notification, dated 25.03.2020 and pursuant thereto its proceedings and report, dated 21.05.2020 have not been found to be ultra vires the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017 nor in violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioners. The report dated 21.05.2020 was therefore, lawfully considered by the Federal Cabinet in its meeting held on 21.05.2020.”

In the ICA, the PMSA requested the court to set aside the short order of a single bench of IHC to the extent of the impugned findings in the aforementioned para of the order.

Earlier, the IHC single bench had noted that the Federal Government is empowered under section 18(b)(i) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 to send a reference to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) but declared that such a decision has to be taken in accordance with the law.

He made it clear that the report of the SIC dated May 21 was “lawfully considered by the Federal Cabinet in its meeting” held on the same date. However, the IHC bench declared that the functions and powers vested in the Federal Government cannot be delegated.

Therefore, the court maintained that the decision of the Federal Cabinet to the extent of delegating its functions and powers to Shehzad Akbar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior and approval of “Action Matrix” is not in consonance with the law laid down by the august Supreme Court.

The bench stated in the order that the Attorney General, taking a fair stance, has stated that he would advise the competent authority to submit the proposed action(s) for the consideration of the Federal Cabinet. In its petition, the association cited federation through Secretary Cabinet Division, Secretary Interior, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Shahzad Akbar Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability, Wajid Zia Director General (DG) FIA and others as respondents.

The petitioners stated in the petition that they seek the protection of this court against the entirely unlawful and unwarranted campaign of vilification and demonisation launched against them in complete denial of the right to due process guaranteed to them by the Constitution.

They adopted, “An inquiry report that travels beyond its constitutional and statutory scope and purports to render decisive findings prior to the initiation of proceedings by the legally designated executive authorities and determination by the appropriate judicial fora is liable to be set aside by this honourable court.”

Their petition said that a report titled “Report of the Commission of Inquiry Constituted by Ministry of Interior to Probe into the Increase in Sugar Prices” was released on May 21 while the said report was prepared by the Sugar Inquiry Commission (SIC) constituted on March 16 through a notification of Ministry of Interior.

They argued, “The scope of the Impugned Report clearly exceeds the constitutional mandate and limitation of a Federal Commission of Inquiry constituted under the 2017 Act, as it trespasses into matters within the exclusive legislative and executive domains of the provinces.”

“The entire inquiry has been carried out in a completely illegal, unlawful, opaque, biased and discriminatory manner. It has been conducted in complete contravention to the requirements of the 2017 Act and the relevant terms of reference,” pointed the petition.