ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) has observed that three banned sugar mills in south Punjab will not be reopened.
During the hearing of petitions filed by growers for the reopening of three relocated mills – Chaudhry Sugar Mills to Rahim Yar Khan, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills to Muzaffargarh and Ittefaq Sugar Mills to Bahawalpur – Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar said that the banned mills will not be reopened, but they may be asked to compensate the farmers.
The chief justice said that possibility cannot be ruled out that banned sugar mills are creating hurdles for the farmers, adding that these banned mills should compensate farmers who had cultivated sugarcane in the areas and now faced financial losses.
The bench has also questioned the nexus between the Punjab government and the banned mills and expressed annoyance over the local administration’s failure to resolve the issue. “Either you are incompetent or partisan,” Justice Nisar told the Rahim Yar Khan district coordination officer. “You are flaring up the situation and creating problems for farmers.” Justice Nisar said the court’s priority was to not let poor farmers suffer.
Farmers through lawyer Ahsan Bhoon and others approached the apex court to allow crushing of sugarcane for the current season after the LHC had declared the relocations illegal and ordered that the owners of the mills return them to their previous locations within three months, having observed that the mills had illegally relocated. The order came in a case filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Jahangir Tareen, where he challenged the relocation.
In their petition, the farmers said that the season’s crop will be wasted if the mills are not allowed to operate. However, the top court had turned down their request and directed owners of five other sugar mills to buy the crop instead.
The five sugar mills owners, including Jahangir Tareen, had given undertaking that they would lift all the sugarcane from three districts at the price of Rs180 per 40kg. However, dissatisfied with the arrangement, the growers again approached the SC, pointing out that the mills do not have the capacity to crush the amount of sugarcane in the area.
The bench was told that sugarcane worth Rs200 billion was sold last year. However, 50 percent of sugarcane has yet to be purchased by the mill owners. During the hearing, Tareen’s counsel Aitzaz Ahsan stated that they are complying with the undertaking, adding that the role of the Punjab government is dubious in this matter.
Tareen also appeared before the bench and stated that the Punjab government should be directed to ensure the sale of sugarcane at the price of Rs180 per 40kg in the whole province, adding that price of sugar is low as compared to the price of sugarcane. Tareen, however, expected that the mills will purchase whole sugarcane till mid-March.
However, the three-member bench directed representatives of the five sugar mills namely JWD, ARY, Hamza, Ashraf, and Indus – to formulate a proposal for the buying and selling of sugarcane and present it to the top court. The SC will supervise buying and selling of the crop by a judicial officer.
The chief justice, however, refused to nominate a high court judge to monitor the crushing, adding that superior judiciary will not be giving the services of judges to act as a judicial commission. He also said that it is not the job of courts to formulate the policies but it can examine if these policies are against the basic principles. The court adjourned hearing until February 21 (Wednesday).