A Lahore High Court (LHC) two-judge bench has restrained the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from taking any adverse action against the oil marketing companies (OMCs) in light of the recommendations by a commission made to probe artificial shortage of the petroleum products that had hit the country in the first half of 2020.
The bench, comprising Justice Jawad Hassan and Justice Raheel Kamran Sheikh, issued the stay order on the intra-court appeals filed by Hascol Petroleum, Byco Petroleum and others.
The counsel for the companies argued that the FIA had no jurisdiction to deal with such matters He said the appellants/companies had paid fine and the matter was yet to be decided by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) while the report of the commission was against the terms of reference (ToRs) made by the LHC.
He said that without hearing the appellants, the whole exercise was violation of fundamental rights of trade and profession guaranteed to the appellants under Article 18 of the Constitution. He said the FIA had been sending notices to the appellants without mentioning reasons and any legal provision.
Deputy Attorney General Asad Ali Bajwa placed on record the report of cabinet division according to which the government was taking action on the recommendations of the commission.
Advocate Azhar Siddique, on behalf of a respondent/citizen, objected to the maintainability of the appeals on the ground that neither the report nor the ToRs were ever challenged by the OMCs while the FIA and other agencies were acting in pursuance of the decision taken by the cabinet.
The bench admitted the ICAs for regular hearing and sought replies from the respondents by Aug 30. The bench restrained the FIA and other respondents from taking adverse action against the appellants till the next hearing.
On June 25, former chief justice Muhammad Qasim Khan had issued the impugned decision on several public interest petitions. He had ordered the government to form a committee for the recovery of unlawful gains from the OMCs.
The government was also directed to take steps for the audit of all OMCs and in the light of such an audit report, if required, a committee or subcommittee shall be constituted to examine the existing rules and regulations, which in the facts and circumstances may propose amendments/recommend new legislation.
In this case, the government on July 28, 2020 constituted a commission, which made a probe while taking on board all stakeholders.
The LHC had directed the government to ensure the release of the report of the commission regarding the artificial shortage of petroleum products immediately. The government was asked to submit a compliance report within three months with regard to steps taken by it to the additional registrar (judicial) of the LHC.