SHC seeks comments from food dept on its SOP for wheat supply to flour mills

Jamal Khurshid
Sunday, Jun 04, 2023

The Sindh High Court directed the provincial food department to file comments on its standard operative procedure for supplying wheat to flour mills.The direction came on a petition the flour mills association against a government ban on the movement of wheat from one district to other district of the province and Karachi in particular.

The food secretary filed comments with regard to the restriction on the movement of wheat from one district to other and submitted that the food department can specify the quantity of wheat to be kept by the flours mills at a time. He said that the food department has fixed 400 metric tonnes of wheat for the Karachi Division, and requesting the court to dismiss the petition as not maintainable.

The petitioner’s counsel also challenged the notification of the food department on May 23 and the SOP for the supply of wheat to flour mills and submitted that both the notification and the SOP were without any backing of law. They said that the impugned action was not approved by the provincial cabinet A division bench comprising Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh and Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed directed the food department to file comments on the SOP as well as on the impugned notification on June 12. The court also asked the petitioner’s counsel to file a rejoinder if any on comments of the food department.

The flour mills association and other petitioners submitted that 92 flour mills were operating business in Karachi, but since the Karachi Division was not a wheat-growing or procurement area, flour mills operating there were exclusively dependent on the supply of wheat from other districts in the province and other provinces of the country. Their counsel Mian Raza Rabbani and Zeeshan Abdullah submitted that the petitioners’ members purchased wheat from the open market and the Sindh government, but the provincial government invoked Section 3 of the Sindh Food Stuff (Control) Act and fixed Rs3,000 for per 40 kilograms of wheat.

They said the government also fixed the procurement target for itself at 1.4 million metric tonnes to avoid any shortage. They said the food minister also informed the assembly that the target of 1.4 million metric tonnes for the procurement of wheat had been met and the government had also imported 400,000 metric tonnes of wheat. The counsel said that there was no justification after the statement of the food minster for continuing with the ban on inter-district and inter-provincial movement of wheat. They said the food department through the commissioners of different divisions of the province had unlawfully restricted and prevented the movement of wheat — inter-district and inter-provincial.

They said the government has issued a notification imposing Section 144 of the CrPC in districts and divisions, and as a consequence police pickets have been put up and officers and staff of the food department have been deployed without the support of any law. These officials stop and/or impounded vehicles carrying wheat bags to Karachi Division, they added.

The counsel submitted that restrictions, in any manner whatsoever, on trade, commerce and intercourse throughout Pakistan is violative of Article 151 of the Constitution of 1973. The court was requested to declare that the petitioners have the right to procure wheat for their flour mills from any or all districts of the province of Sindh and other parts of the country, and as such any ban on the movement of wheat, inter-district and inter-provincial, is illegal. They requested the court to direct the respondent to lift the ban, direct or indirect, imposed on the inter-district movement of wheat in the province, in particular to Karachi Division, and allow inter-provincial movement of wheat in accordance with Article 151 of the constitution.