The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday gave a final chance to the federal authorities to explain the rationale behind the ban on export of perishable items, including mangoes, in wooden packaging.
Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, who headed the bench, also warned to pass an appropriate order on the basis of the available record in case the additional attorney general failed to submit the authorities’ comments by July 13.
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In April, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) and the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) had banned the use of wood packaging including crates, boxes and cases for storing fruits and vegetables intended for exports from May 20, 2015.
One of the leading exporters of the mangoes had taken the authorities to the court. During Thursday’s proceedings, the exporter’s lawyer, Faiz Shah, moved an application for urgent hearing of the case.
He informed that the season for exporting mangoes (Chaunsa) is ending, whereas the authorities concerned through their circular dated March 19 have put a condition that the perishable items, including fruits and vegetables, will not be exported in wooden packing.
He argued that the circular has been issued without any lawful authority, as the Pakistan Plant Quarantine Act, 1976 regulates the imports and not exports, whereas in terms of the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM 15) and the Regulation of Wood Packaging Material in International Trade (2009), perishable items are permitted to be exported in wooden packaging provided that the material would be made entirely from thin wood - six millimetres or less in thickness.
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The lawyer alleged that while such exemption is available to the petitioner, the authorities are still not allowing exports, which has already caused serious losses and affected the reputation of the petitioner in the international market being one of the largest exporters of the fruit.
The standing counsel, Dilawar Hussain, requested that the matter may be adjourned as Additional Attorney General Salman Talibuddin is presently out of the country.
He said Talibuddin is fully conversant with the facts of the case and he would be in a better position to assist the court in the subject.
“Keeping in view the urgency expressed by the learned counsel for the petitioner, as an indulgence and as a last chance, we are adjourning this matter to July 13, when the additional attorney general shall be in attendance,” ordered the two-judges.
They cautioned that if the additional attorney general will not be in attendance to provide any assistance on the next date of hearing, then the request for some suitable interim relief by the petitioner shall be considered on the basis of the available record.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2015.
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