No action against oil marketing companies yet, IHC told

Court reserves verdict on petition filed by oil company


​ Our Correspondent June 26, 2020
The Islamabad High Court. PHOTO COURTESY: IHC

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court was informed by Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar on Thursday that no FIR had been filed against any oil marketing company (OMC) found involved in the hoarding and black marketing of petrol by an inquiry committee.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah reserved the court’s verdict on a petition filed by an oil company challenging the composition of the fuel crisis committee, which probed into the recent unavailability of petrol in the country, as well as the crackdown initiated by the government on the recommendation of the panel.

The petitioner claimed that the government did not constitute the fuel crisis committee under the Inquiry Act and therefore it was illegal.

It requested the court to set aside the Petroleum Division’s June 8 and 9 notifications. It also sought the court’s directions to the government not to take any action against the company till the petition was decided.

The petitioner's lawyer argued that a ministry could not form a committee to probe into the matter under the Ogra ordinance. He added that the inclusion of the FIA in the committee was aimed at harassing the OMCs. He further argued that presence of a PSO in the committee also created a conflict of interest.

The IHC chief justice remarked that the executive was authorised to conduct an inquiry into any matter related to public interest. “This court can’t interfere in the powers of the executive,” he added.

Justice Minallah observed that the country was facing fuel supply problem and it was the mandate of the executive to fix responsibility as the government was answerable to people. The lawyer said the inquiry process should be transparent.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday ordered action against nine oil market companies (OMCs) including cancellation of their licences and the arrest of their officials after an inquiry body found them involved in deliberately creating a petrol shortage in the country by hoarding the fuel.

The fuel crisis committee, formed earlier this month in the wake of petrol becoming unavailable at filling stations after the government slashed its price, submitted its preliminary report to the premier.

According to documents available with The Express Tribune, the eight-member body headed by Director General Oil Shafiur Rehman Afridi and also comprising Petroleum Division officials blamed nine OMCs for the crisis — Shell Pakistan, Total Parco Pakistan, Attock Petroleum, Attock Oil Pakistan, Byco, Gas and Oil Pakistan, Hascol Petroleum, Puma Energy and Be Energy (formerly Bakri Energy).

The committee said it had visited the oil depots of these OMCs and found that they had excess stocks of petrol.

It recommended strict action against the OMCs including cancellation and suspension of their licences for hoarding and black marketing of the fuel.

The prime minister said the companies responsible for the crisis would not be spared. The OMCs will be issued notices seeking an explanation for the artificial shortage. It will be mandatory for them to maintain stocks for 21 days.

The licences of the OMCs involved in the crisis will be cancelled or suspended if the fuel supply situation does not improve within a month.

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