LAHORE - A two-member bench of the Lahore High Court on Thursday accepted the unconditional apology of Dr Asim Hussain, Advisor to Ministry of Oil and Natural Resources, and discharged a contempt notice issued to him for giving a wrong statement at a private TV programme.

The division bench, comprised Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Aysha A Malik, resumed hearing on petitions challenging increases in the prices of petroleum products. The court had summoned Dr Asim for giving a statement in which he had claimed that the LHC had given a stay order on the levy tax on mafia’s pressure.

The advisor told the court that a notification regarding imposition of levy duty on LPG had been withdrawn. He said new LPG policy would be issued within one month. He said his statement given in the programme was misinterpreted. He had never thought to ridicule the judiciary. He said government wanted to resolve the energy crises.

He requested the court to accept his apology and discharge the contempt notice against him. The court accepted his request and observed Dr Asim should have to aware about affairs happening in his ministry.

The court deferred the hearing until Jan 23, 2013.

The petitioners had submitted that the cases regarding increase in prices of petroleum products were pending before the high court, but the advisor had given statement on the proceedings which was contempt of court.

The petitioners had pointed out that the Petroleum Products (Petroleum Levy) Amendment Act 2011 vested discretion to fix rate of petroleum levy solely in the federal government.

The petitioners told the court that the constitution of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) was  the highest policy making and regulatory body in relation to petroleum, natural gas and its products. That permanent body, which convenes every quarter, has neither been consulted nor has given approval to the imposition of the impugned petroleum levy that is sought to be charged by the Federal government.

Also, the Lahore High Court on Thursday directed a ‘sale committee’ to submit written quotation for the auction of Ittefaq Group of Industries’ units to recover defaulted loan of Rs3 billions obtained from different banks.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial further directed the committee to also invite international buyers and publish advertisements in foreign newspapers.

The court had already allowed the sale of different units of the Ittefaq Group owned by Sharif family.

The CJ adjourned hearing of the case until December 19.

Mian Meraj Din, one of the shareholders in the group and Nawaz Sharif’s uncle, had challenged the sale of units on the ground that the auction of said units was in violation of Section 284 of the Companies Ordinance. He said he was the owners of three units - Ittefaq foundries, Ittefaq Brothers and Brothers Steel Mills. Therefore, they could not be sold out, he said.

The court; however, had ruled that these units were mortgaged with the banks at the time of securing loan and they would be sold to recover the loan amount.

National Bank of Pakistan, Habib Bank Ltd, United Bank Ltd, Zarai Taraqiati Bank of Pakistan, Muslim Commercial Bank, Picic Bank, First Punjab Mudarba and Corporate Law Authority filed the petition in 1998.

Petitioners prayed to the court to order for the recovery of their loan through auction of Ittefaq Foundries, Ittefaq Textile Mills and Khalid Siraj Industries and other units as they had failed to fulfill their financial commitments made against loan given to them.

Earlier on the banks’ petition, a company judge of LHC had ordered sale of these industrial units. And a sale committee was constituted, consisting of banks’ representatives and monitor the auction.