KARACHI: The Sindh High Court issued notices to the federal and provincial authorities to file their response to a petition challenging the government's decision to bring the key five regulatory bodies under the administrative control of the relevant ministries.
A division bench headed by Justice Munib Akhtar also issued notices to the federal and provincial law officer to ensure filing of comments by the respondent authorities by Jan 24.
Naimatullah petitioned the high court assailing the notification issued on Dec 19, 2016, whereby the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has been transferred to the control of the Water and Power division, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) to the Petroleum and Natural Resources division, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) to the Information Technology and Telecom division and the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to the Finance Division.
Advocate Abdul Wahab Baluch, the counsel for the petitioner, submitted the federal government had brought the five autonomous and independent regulatory bodies under the administrative control of the relevant ministries whose activities and functions were supposed to monitor and regulate under the law.
He contended that the regulatory bodies were established to promote fair competition and investment in their respective fields and protect the public interest and rights of consumers. "These bodies were meant to be autonomous and free from political influences, unbridled bureaucratic and direct governmental control."
As per constitution, the regulatory bodies established under the federal law are to be controlled exclusively by the Council of Common Interests (CCI), the counsel argued.
He added that the constitutional mandate had been clearly violated by the federal government by transferring the regulatory bodies to the ministries and thus, its action was without any lawful authority and of no legal effect.
Baluch submitted that after taking control of the OGRA, the government through its ministry concerned allowed the CNG stations and retailers to fix gas prices on their own instead of allowing the regulatory body to fix prices.
He apprehended that the same will be case with electricity prices, domestic gas supplies and telephone services. "The public would be left at the mercy of businessmen and multinational companies to make an undue and unjustified profit without being accountable or subject to the regulatory control, thus defeating the very object of establishing these regulatory authorities."
The petitioner pleaded the court to declare the notification regarding the transfer of administrative control of the regulatory bodies to the respective ministries as illegal and unconstitutional.
The court was further pleaded to declare as illegal the notification allowing the CNG retailers to fix their gas prices.