The Sindh High Court on Friday directed the provincial law officer to file a statement with regard to the vacant posts of the director general, the additional secretary and the director of the Sindh Bureau of Supply and Pricing Department.
The law officer was told to file comments on if some additional charges had been given to other officers as a stopgap arrangement.
The direction came on a petition seeking enforcement of the laws against hoarding and black market of essential commodities in the province.
Applicant Imran Shahzad, who became intervenor in the petition, submitted that the posts of the director general, the secretary, the additional secretary and the director supply of the Bureau of Supply and Pricing Department under the Sindh Registration of Godowns Act were vacant and not being functional yet.
The SHC’s division bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, directed the provincial law officer to clarify with regard to these vacant posts and apprise the court as to whether some additional charges had been given to the different officers as a stopgap arrangement or not.
The court directed the law officer to come up with definite instructions with regard to the attachment of these departments in the rules of business of the Sindh government.
The additional director of the Bureau of Supply and Pricing Department submitted that the bill of Sindh Essential Commodities Prices Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding, 2016 was approved on September 22, 2016 for placing it for approval before the cabinet but it had not been finalised yet.
The provincial law officer submitted that due to the passage of time, the bill had lapsed and it may be presented again by the relevant secretary. The additional director submitted that the bill could not be moved again until the appointment of the director general of the bureau.
The court directed the law officer to make proper clarification from the relevant authority and come up with definite answers of all queries raised in the court which were meant to make the state departments more functional and proactive to curb the menace of hoarding and profiteering in the essential commodities and to give full effect to all legislations in the field.
The assistant commissioner general submitted that the divisional and district administrations were exercising their powers under the relevant prevalent laws to control the profiteering and hoarding and a number of profiteers were sent to prison, with the imposition Rs.64.25,700 fine from April 25 to May 13, 2020.
Filing comments before the court, the assistant commissioner said the department shall continue to take action against the law violators to prevent the profiteering and hoardings in the city. The court directed the commissioner to file further progress report by June 3.
The court had earlier asked the Sindh government to constitute a task force under the supervision of the respective deputy commissioners of the districts for taking action against the menace of profiteering, black marketing and hoarding. The court had directed the provincial law officer to submit reports from the divisional deputy commissioners of the province or all districts as what efforts were being made by them to control the black marketing, profiteering and hoarding of essential commodities in their respective territories.
The court was informed that the standard operating procedure had been given to the deputy commissioners and the additional deputy commissioners of the province for monitoring the prices against profiteering and hoardings in the Karachi division.
According to the reports, the assistant commissioners had taken action against milk retailers, fruit and vegetable vendors and other essential commodities’ shopkeepers for the violation of the relevant laws on profiteering and hoardings.
Petitioner M Tariq Mansoor had submitted in the petition that several laws pertaining to the check and control pf the hoarding and black market of essential commodities, including the Sindh Registration of Godowns Act, the Hoarding and Black Market Act, 1948 and the Sindh Essential Commodities Price Control & Prevention of Profiting and Hoarding Act, 2005 were promulgated time to time by the provincial government but they were not being enforced in letter and spirit.
He had said that the Sindh Registration of Godowns Act, 1995 was promulgated some 25 years back but it could not be enforced properly, resulting into a situation in which the citizens were facing artificial crises and the shortage of essential commodities, such as tomatoes, onion, sugar, wheat, and that they became victims of black marketing, hoarding and profiting by the unscrupulous elements.
He had said the Karachi Essential Article (Price Control and Anti-Hoarding Act) 1953 was enacted for regulating the possession, distribution and sale of essential commodities in Karachi division but unfortunately it was not enforced in letter and spirit.
He had submitted that due to a lack of enforcement of the essential commodities’ prices and their distributions, the people were compelled to purchase commodities on higher prices without any check and control by the provincial and the federal governments which were supposed to ensure the supply of these commodities on notified prices.
The court was requested to call the record from the provincial government with regard to the enforcement of the Sindh Registration of Godowns Act and other essential commodities laws. The court was also requested to direct the government to ensure the sale of essential commodities on the notified rates.
The court directed federal and provincial law officers to file comments as what efforts had been taken for the implementation of the Hoarding and Black Market Act as well as the Sindh Registration of Godowns Act.