LHC extends ‘stay’ of oil firms in petrol crisis case

LAHOREThe Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday ordered an extension in its previous decision of barring the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) from taking action against the owners of oil companies in connection with the petrol crisis.

Hearing intra-court appeals filed by the owners of these companies against the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) powers to start an inquiry and register a case, the LHC said that it would order action against the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) if it was found guilty in the crisis.

It also directed both the federal government and the OGRA to submit their replies in the case on the next date of hearing.  A two-member bench of the high court, headed by Justice Jawad Hassan, heard the appeals.

FIA Additional Director General (ADG) Abu Bakr Khuda Bux appeared in the court in person.

Speaking on the occasion, Justice Jawad Hassan said that not only the judiciary had to give decisions in the light of the constitution but also to strengthen the institutions. “The entire world, including the World Bank (WB), is watching proceedings of the case,” he remarked.

FIA ADG Abu Bakr told the court that the agency had compiled a report on the petrol crisis in 2018, which was based on its inspection of different sites of petroleum companies.

When the FIA official alleged that the OGRA did not fulfill its obligations due to which the petrol crisis raised its head, Justice Jawad told him that it was the agency’s duty to point out which of its duties the Authority had not performed, following which the court would take action.

Abu Bakr said that the FIA’s argument was that the OGRA had not only failed to perform most of its duties, but even when it did perform, it failed to produce the desired results. “The OGRA neither checked the stocks of the oil companies nor did it count them,” the FIA ADG said, and alleged that the Authority also issued 56 licenses by bypassing the rules and regulations.

Justice Jawad said he would like to know how much money had been given to the OGRA by the WB.

The oil companies owners had taken the stance that a single bench of the LHC had ordered the FIA to take action against them. “It was on the single bench’s orders that judicial inquiry was conducted into the petrol crisis. This was despite the fact that the high court did not have the authority to order such an inquiry.

Later, a two-member bench of the LHC barred the FIA from cracking down on the oil companies’ owners,” the petitioners said, adding that despite these orders, the FIA teams registered cases against the owners; raided the companies’ offices and even sealed them.

The petitioners further argued that they had the right to do business under Article-18 of the constitution. “The agency teams registered cases against them besides sealing their offices without any complaint. Truth of the matter is that it is the OGRA, and not the FIA, which has the power to take action against us,” the petitioners added. Reporter: Malik Ashraf. TF Report

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