KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued on Thursday notices to the concerned parties on the sugar mill owners’ petition requesting the court to review its order of paying Rs172 per 40 kilogrammes (kg) of sugar cane to farmers.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, asked the mill owners to argue on their review plea on January 10, 2018.
Another two-judge bench, headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, had on December 22 directed the sugar mills to pay Rs172 per 40kg to the sugar cane growers. According to the judgment, each sugar mill was also required to furnish a security related to the payment of balance to the satisfaction of the court’s nazir by way of a suitable charge on any immoveable property within three weeks.
The court had further directed the millers to file a statement along with an affidavit that they were paying Rs172 per 40kg to the growers and would continue to do so for the entire crushing season till otherwise permitted by the court.
The bench had observed that if the sugar mill owners did not file the statement within the due date or offered price less than Rs172 per 40kg to the growers, then contempt proceedings may be initiated against the chief executive or directors of the delinquent sugar mills.
“In case of less payment, the complaint of a sugarcane grower would be sent to a sessions judge or cane commissioner to take cognisance, however, no compounding of any offence in respect of which a complaint is made under or pursuant to this order shall be permissible, without the approval of the court,” the judges had warned.
Later, the mill owners approached the court pleading to review the abovementioned order to the extent of paying Rs172 per 40kg to the sugar cane growers.
Lawyer representing mill owners Barrister Farogh Naseem argued that the owners of the sugar mills could not afford to pay Rs172 per 40kg as ordered by the high court. He argued that this would expose the owners to financial losses and they would not be able to continue operations.
Advocate Mureed Ali Shah, who represented the growers, contended that it were the growers who were suffering losses. He alleged that instead of complying with the court order, the mill owners had shut operations, and therefore, they might be proceeded against for committing the contempt of court.
The court issued notices to lawyers representing the parties to argue on the review application on January 10, 2018. It also directed the office to fix the matter before the bench headed by Justice Akhtar, which had passed the earlier order.
Last week, the sugar cane growers had approached the court seeking an injunction with regard to payment to sugar cane growers in accordance with the government’s notified rate.
The growers alleged that they were paid a less price for sugar cane against the minimum price of Rs182 per 40kg fixed by the government. They said that the sugar mills also did not fulfil the obligations even in the previous crushing season and the fixation of price was pending before the Supreme Court.
The court was informed that the sugar mills had assailed the government notification regarding fixation of price at Rs182 per 40kg, stating that they were not legally obliged to give effect to the same as the notified price was not viable and would result in losses to the mills.