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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 674, 7 October 2023

LHC strikes down federal government notification on sugar price fixing as “ultra vires”



The parliament’s power is regulating inter-province relations in trade and commerce and not regulating internal decisions.

Femy Francis

On 5 October, The Lahore High Court (LHC) dismissed the federal government's order over the fixing of sugar prices and reinstated that the authority lies with the provincial government in this case of Punjab. The decision was held by a two-bench judges consisting of Justice Shahid Karim and Justice Sultan Tanvir Ahmad hearing the petition by Sugar Mills against the federal government’s interference. They questioned the jurisdiction of the government to determine the price ceiling for the province of Punjab. Deputy Attorney General Asad Ali Bajwa cited Article 151 to support the government’s role in determining the sugar prices stating that the power resides with the parliament as they intended to establish a uniform price for all the provinces. While the presiding Judge Karim clarified that Article 151 did not award parliament of any such mandate. Advocate General Samia Khalid put forth that the province of Punjab has the capacity and the competence to determine and fix the prices of all necessities and conferred that the interference of the governments lies outside their jurisdiction.

The Judgement
They observed that the 1977 Act only outlines on price control and that it allots no authority to the parliament to determine the price of essential goods which lies exclusively under the province’s jurisdiction. The parliament’s power is regulating inter-province relations in trade and commerce and not regulating internal decisions. The judgement highlighted that the provincial government are better positioned to decide on price fixation as they are aware of the various circumstance of the said province and would be able to consider all factors required before making a judgement.

Justice Karim also noted that the price fixation for essential commodities need not be uniform across all provinces and not fix a price if not needed. They ruled the government cannot allocate the price without regarding that some provinces do not require the ceiling. The bench ruled that under the 1977 act, the parliament's power to control prices of essential goods and commodities and the prevention of profiteering and hoarding is “ultra vires” meaning beyond their powers. Additionally, they struck down the notification by the federal government under the Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Order 2022.

References
Wajih Ahmad Sheikh, “Provinces empowered to fix sugar price, LHC rules,” Dawn, 6 October 2023
LHC directs Punjab govt to fix sugar price,” The News International, 6 October 2023

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