LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday directed the federal government to take steps for the recovery of illegal profits the oil marketing companies (OMCs) made by creating an artificial shortage of petroleum products in the country during the first half of 2020.

Announcing the judgement on several public interest petitions, Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan 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 form a committee, if required, to examine the existing rules and regulations. In the light of facts and circumstances the committee may recommend new legislation or amendments to the existing ones.

The judgement said the federal government must initiate legal action against those involved in malpractices or found responsible for creating the artificial shortage. It also directed the government to ensure that strategic reserves were maintained in all eventualities.

LHC orders authorities to get all the companies audited

In this case, the government had on July 28, 2020 constituted a commission, which conducted a probe while taking all stakeholders on board.

The verdict directed the federal government to ensure immediate release of the commission’s report regarding the artificial shortage of petroleum products. The government was directed to submit a compliance report to the additional registrar (judicial) of the LHC within three months regarding the steps taken.

The chief justice ordered chief secretaries of the provinces to take effective steps to empower the district administrations so that they may play a better role in such a situation.

He also asked the government to examine the report of the commission regarding dissolution of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) through a high-powered committee.

“However, if such committee concludes that Ogra should remain in field then immediately the rules relating thereto must be revisited and fresh rules/regulations be framed and the authority should closely watch the working of Ogra and other autonomous bodies,” the CJ added.

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