ISLAMABAD: In the wake of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the government has decided to introduce a new set of laws for the federal capital to protect citizens against hoarders with severe penalties.
Titled “Covid-19 (Prevention of Hoarding) Ordinance, 2020” for the Islamabad Capital Territory, the Ordinance has been sent to members of the federal cabinet for approval before it is submitted to President Arif Alvi for his final nod.
Since the pandemic began, Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly warned that strict action will be taken against hoarders. On April 14, while extending the lockdown for a fortnight, PM Imran had announced to bring a set of laws against hoarders and smugglers. On Thursday, a draft had been distributed amongst the cabinet members. The president is expected to sign once the cabinet suggests changes if any.
The ordinance states that “any dealer who is found to hoard any scheduled articles shall be guilty of an offence punishable with simple imprisonment up to three (3) years and a fine equivalent to 50 per cent of the value of the scheduled articles involved in the case.”
It empowers the special magistrate to take cognizance of an offence under the ordinance, upon written information by the office. “An officer may arrest any person without a warrant against whom there is credible information that he has committed an offence under this Ordinance.”
All offences punishable under the ordinance shall be cognizable and non-bailable.
The scheduled items listed in the ordinance include tea, sugar, milk, powdered milk, milk and food for infants, edible oil, aerated water, fruit juices and squashes, salt, potatoes, onions, pulses, fish, beef, mutton, eggs, gur (jaggery), spices and vegetables, red chillies, medicinal drugs, kerosene, rice, wheat, flour, chemical fertilizers, poultry food, surgical gloves, face masks, N-95 masks, sanitizers, surface cleaning products, pesticides, match stick and isopropyl alcohol.
The ordinance further enables the deputy commissioner of the federal capital, or his authorised officer, to search any premises and seize articles which are suspected to be hoarded. Seized articles can be auctioned and the money raised will be deposited in the exchequer.
The ordinance applies to individual dealers and corporations both and the special magistrate will be bound to complete the trial within 30 days. The aggrieved party can appeal before a district and sessions judge, which must be disposed of within 30 days.
“COVID-19 (Prevention of Hoarding) Ordinance, 2020” also provides rewards for informers in case their information leads to the conviction of a hoarder. Around 10% of the proceeds from the auction of hoarded articles will be given to the informer as a reward.
Speculative dealings, market manipulation, creating artificial, false or misleading appearance concerning the price of, or market for, the scheduled articles will also be punishable with up to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs1 million.
Every dealer will be bound to provide information regarding production, import, export, purchase, stock, sale or distribution of any of the scheduled articles to the deputy commissioner who can inspect and verify the books, registers and premises. Failure or false information by the dealers will result in a punishment of up to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs1 million.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2020.