ISLAMABAD: The top court has rejected the appeal of sugar mill owners against the Punjab government’s ban on setting up new sugar mills in the province, deeming the provincial administration’s decision in public and national interest.
On December 6, 2006, the Punjab Industries Department had imposed a ban on establishing new sugar mills or enlarging the installed capacity of the existing mills in the province. The Lahore High Court had dismissed the plea of sugar mill owners on February 26, 2013.
On Monday, the two-judge apex court bench comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Qazi Faez Isa rejected the sugar mill owners’ petition as well.
Justice Qazi Isa while authoring the 30-page verdict ruled that the decision to ban new sugar mills was not to benefit or punish anyone but to ensure the organised and planned growth of the industry.
Endorsing the ban, the court observed that if the provincial government had not finally acted against the continuous growth of sugar mills, it would have further devastated the environment and food security and undermined the economy as well.
“Since every application for setting up of a new sugar mill or the expansion of an existing one would be contrary to the national interest, good governance and transparency mandated the issuance of the impugned notification that removed all discretion and prevented either favouritism or victimisation,” the order stated.
The judges dismissed the petitioners’ arguments that the ban violated Article 18 of the Constitution. “When the government stopped the expansion of the sugar business, it did not offend Article 18 since the rights guaranteed thereunder are ‘subject to such qualifications’ that have been ‘prescribed by law’,” the order reads.
The bench, however, noted that the current Punjab chief minister resorted to favouritism as a number of sugar mills were given permission to be set up despite the high court’s judgment.
Two new sugar mills were set up in the Muzaffargarh and Rahim Yar Khan districts after the December 2006 notification, which had disallowed new mills.
“These facts came to the fore incidentally and are not the subject matter of these appeals. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to state anything further, as the same may be subject matter for investigation and litigation,” the judgment stated.
The court also observed the provincial government’s decision was taken after considerable deliberations and was in conformity with the advice of relevant experts on agriculture, food and industries.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2016.