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July 1, 2020

SHC directs oil cos to appear before FIA with relevant record

Top Story

July 1, 2020

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the oil marketing companies’ chief executive officers and representatives to appear before the Federal Investigation Officer’s (FIA) with all required documents. The direction came on petitions filed by four oil marketing companies against raids and registration of FIR against a company and its employees on complaints of hoarding of oil following decline prices of petroleum products in the country.

The court, on a previous hearing, had restrained the FIA from taking coercive action against the private oil marketing companies, subject to their continues cooperation in the investigation by the FIA and proceedings being initiated by the oil and gas regulatory authority.

FIA Acting deputy director Siraj Panhwar submitted that the petitioners had not joined the investigation of the FIA despite the direction of the court. Instead, he said, their counsel was sending legal notices to the FIA for filing contempt application against the investigation.

The petitioners’ counsel, however, denied the claim of the FIA officer and alleged that the FIA was harassing the petitioners under the garb of investigation.

The SHC’s division bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro, directed the petitioners CEO and representatives of the private oil marketing companies to appear before the FIA officer in his office on July 1 (today), July 3 and July 7 along with all documents required by the FIA officer and the performa duly replied that has been supplied to the petitioners’ counsel by the FIA. The court observed that the petitioners during the investigation and inquiry shall be dealt with according to the law.

The court also extended its interim order subject to all previous conditions and in addition observed that if petitioners did not meet the conditions stipulated in the order then the FIA would be at liberty to proceed against them in accordance with the law.

The petitioners’ counsel submitted in the petitions that the Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) issued a show cause notice to the petitioners with regard to the hoarding and shortage of petroleum products in the country in the first week of June which had been replied accordingly.

The counsel said that despite Ogra has initiated the process, the FIA also took the cognisance in the matter and was “acting malafidely and harassing the petitioners” although they were fully ready to cooperate in the proceedings initiated by Ogra and the investigation undertaken by the FIA.

The court was informed that representatives of the oil marketing companies had appeared in the FIA officer on June 11 at the instance of the FIA and gave an undertaking to continue managing its supply chain to ensure the balance of maintaining legal minimum critical stocks and ratably feeding its retail network on a daily basis throughout the month, besides maintaining a 21-day stock.

He submitted that despite the appearance and undertaking, the FIA issued a fresh notice not acknowledging the presence of the representatives of the petitioners earlier and threatening to take ex-parte action if the petitioner failed to appear.

The lawyer also questioned the proceedings being initiated by the FIA and submitted that the FIA had no jurisdiction as per the schedule of the FIA Act to start the investigation against the oil marketing companies and issuing impugned notices that were void ab initio and illegal.