After weeks of legal wrangling between federal and provincial governments, the Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to resolve a festering dispute over the privatisation of Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) shares.
In view of its decision, the three-member bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, summoned the record of the case from Peshawar High Court, suggesting that a ruling on the matter would be delivered by next week.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the apex court also rejected the attorney general’s (AG) plea to set aside PHC’s interim order and referred the matter to parliament for the resolution of the dispute.
The court also stated that it would rule on whether the parliament is the appropriate forum to resolve the dispute between the provincial and federal governments.
Advancing his arguments before the court, K-P government’s lawyer Wasim Sajjad contended that the PHC should be allowed to decide whether it has the jurisdiction to decide disputes relating to natural resources between the centre and the provinces.
The lawyer contended that the high court should be allowed to hear this case as the matter was between the provincial government and the Privatisation Commission (PC).
Rejecting his argument, the court said PC is a federal body tasked to implement the government’s policy.
Sajjad contended that after the 18th amendment, PC should get prior approval from the province in such issues. After hearing arguments from both sides, the court adjourned the matter till October 20.
Earlier this month, the privatisation of OGDCL shares was stayed by the PHC. In addition, the court had also directed the OGDCL, SECP and Privatisation Commission to file their responses. Subsequently, the federal government challenged the PHC’s order in the Supreme Court.
On October 10, the court allowed the government to continue the bidding for OGDCL shares, but restrained the government from transferring or selling its shares till the case is decided.
On Monday, the bench, while referring Article 184 (1) of the Constitution, directed the attorney general of Pakistan, as well as the K-P government’s counsel to assist it on determining whether the high court has jurisdiction to decide conflicting issues related to the distribution of natural resources between the national and provincial governments.
During Monday’s hearing, the attorney general had contended that the PHC had no jurisdiction to stay the privatisation of OGDCL, adding that privatisation of OGDCL shares was in the national interest.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2014.