ISLAMABAD  - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday turned down a petition by the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) filed against the report of Sugar Inquiry Commission (SIC) allowing the government to take action in this matter in accordance with the law.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petition challenging the report of Sugar Inquiry Commission and dismissed the same after hearing the arguments of all the parties.

Permitting the government to take action in this matter and declaring the formation of the SIC as legal, Justice Athar noted in the verdict, “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 court 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.

The Federal Cabinet after considering the proposed action(s) shall be at liberty to take such decisions as it may deem appropriate. This Court expects that the decisions taken shall be in conformity with the provisions of the relevant statutes e.g. the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, the Company Act, 2017, etc,” maintained the court.

Justice Athar said that this Court further expects that while dealing with the matter the concerned officials/public office holders will have regard to the principles of due process and fair trial and refrain from acting or making statements that could prejudice the right to fair trial or violate the principles highlighted by the august Supreme Court in the case titled “Suo Motu Case No. 28 of 2018 and by this Court in the case titled “The State v. Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan”.

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 demonization 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.

Therefore, the PSMA and other petitioners prayed to the court to declare the notification of Interior Ministry of March 16 to constitute Sugar Inquiry Commission and all subsequent and consequent actions of the respondents including but not limited to the impugned report of May 21, the impugned Action Matrix of Respondent No 4 (Shahzad Akbar) and the impugned Prime Minister’s decision of June 7 and the other actions of the government officials as ultra vires the Act, unconstitutional, malicious and may be pleased to quash the same. They further requested the court to prohibit the respondents from directly as well as indirectly taking any adverse action or passing any adverse orders or placing any reliance upon or making any reference to or giving any publicity to the impugned report against the petitioners. claim