KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed on Thursday the Karachi commissioner to ensure the sale of loose milk in the city at the officially fixed rate of Rs85 per litre.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, also directed the lawyers representing the parties to prepare their arguments on price fixing procedures by the next date of the hearing.
The judges were hearing a petition filed by civil rights campaigner Muhammed Imran Shahzad seeking reduction in prices of dairy products and establishment of a local taskforce to regulate the prices.
In his plea, the petitioner said that the authorities concerned were fixing the prices of dairy products without following the procedure set under the Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Act, 1977.
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He recalled that the high court had, in August 2016, directed the authorities concerned to form a mechanism to control and maintain the prices of dairy products. However, milk prices were increased in violation of the court's earlier order, he alleged.
The bench was informed that the court had directed on August 23, 2013 the city commissioner and others concerned to devise a mechanism to control and maintain the prices of dairy products, including milk. The petitioner alleged that the mafia had once again unilaterally and illegally increased the milk price in violation of the court's order.
Shahzad argued that the increase in the price of milk was unjust, given that the prices of petroleum products had been decreasing in international and local markets. He mentioned that the price of milk was fixed at Rs70 per litre, when the price of petrol was Rs110 per litre.
Pursuant to the court's earlier order, the petitioner said the commissioner had on April 9, 2012 notified the retail price of milk at Rs70 per litre, but the dairy farmers increased the rate to Rs84 per litre on the pretext of an increase in petroleum products' prices.
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Shahzad added that later the dairy farmers proposed to further increase the milk price to Rs94 per litre without any justification, as the fuel price had decreased.
He had pleaded to the court to order law enforcement agencies to launch a crackdown against the traders selling the commodity at exorbitant prices. A direction was also sought for the Rangers and police to ensure the sale of milk at reasonable prices.
A lawyer representing the dairy farmers requested the court to allow the increase in milk price, arguing that the farmers were unable to cover their costs.
It was argued that the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had determined the price of milk under the 1977 law, which was void as the provincial government had enacted a provincial law to replace it.
However, the judges turned down the dairy farmers' request and directed the Karachi commissioner to ensure the sale of the fresh milk at Rs85 per litre across the city.
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A law officer for the KMC informed the SHC that the commissioner had held a meeting with the stakeholders on the issue of fixing the milk price. The bench directed the commissioner to submit details of the stakeholders' meeting by Tuesday, February 27.
In the meantime, the court also directed the petitioner, lawyers representing the dairy farmers and KMC to prepare arguments regarding the fixation of milk price by the next date of the hearing.