Vehicles standing in lines at a CNG station in Islamabad. PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR
The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday has refused to entertain the government’s request to suspend an order by the capital’s high court restoring the supply of natural gas to CNG stations in the Potohar region, including the twin cities.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk rejected a plea filed by the petroleum ministry and the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) to suspend the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) December 2013 order.
The IHC had ordered the government to restore the gas supply to the CNG sector for three days a week after fuel pump owners approached the court. The bench stated that the high court should decide the matter, which is fixed for hearing on January 22.
On January 14, the bench had admitted the appeals of the petroleum ministry and the SNGPL for regular hearing against the IHC’s order regarding the supply of natural gas to CNG stations for three days a week.
During the hearing, counsel for owners of CNG stations, Qamar Afzal argued that the federal government did not have the authority to form a policy regarding the distribution of gas to different sectors. “The Council of Common Interests is empowered to decide the allocation of gas.”
He objected to the complete ban on the supply of gas to CNG stations imposed by the government while the matter was pending before the IHC. The counsel contended that a total ban on the supply of CNG would be tantamount to frustrating the IHC’s proceedings. He requested the SC to allow the high court to decide the matter.
The counsel for SNGPL, Khawaja Farooq argued that the high court did not have the authority to interfere in a policy matter of the federal government and its order to supply gas to CNG stations for three days a week was a violation of the government’s decision to allocate the least priority to the CNG sector.
He stated that to ensure optimal utilisation of natural gas for the socio-economic development of the country the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet had approved natural gas load management to tide over periods of high demand and short supply in March 2013. “If gas were supplied to the CNG station, domestic consumers will suffer.”
Farooq requested the apex court to suspend the IHC’s order, but the court referred the case to the high court and disposed of the matter.
The court had issued notices to 49 CNG stations situated mainly in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2014.