ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Wednesday served notices on the ministries of finance, petroleum and other respondents after a petitioner challenged the increase in unaccounted for gas (UFG) bench mark from 4.5 to 9 per cent that will cause huge loss to the Pakistani public.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah issued the notices in a petition of Farrukh Dall Advocate who moved the court in person and nominated federation of Pakistan through secretary cabinet division, ministry of petroleum and natural resources, ministry of finance and oil & gas regulatory authority (OGRA) as respondents in this matter.

Besides issuing the notices to the aforementioned respondents, Justice Athar also served the notices on the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) seeking his comments within a fortnight.

The petitioner Farrukh Dall adopted before the court that the constitution of Pakistan is not silent over the issues which affect economic life of the nation and its citizens. “Constitution contains a whole range of articles 3, 4 and 5(2) 9, 14, 18, 23 and 24 which have a direct nexus with good economic governance and fundamental rights, maintained the petitioner.

He stated that the UFG benchmark of 4.5 per cent was fixed by OGRA for Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Company Ltd (SSGCL) for fiscal year 2011-12 to 2014-15 whereas through an illegal decision petroleum ministry and OGRA are trying to increase UFG benchmark from 4.5 to 9 per cent on the pretext of non-consumers ‘gas theft, law and order situation and bulk/retail ratio which is illegal /unlawful act on their part.

“This is being done by them despite Prime Minister’s deferment for change in the gas pricing mechanism that is estimated to increase consumers’ tariff significantly,” he added.

Dall maintained that the combined impact to the consumers would be Rs 65-70 billions if the decision is implemented. In fact 4.5 per cent UFG benchmark fixed by OGRA in the consumer tariff was meant to reasonably cover the cost of pilferage, leakage, loss in security situation and all other difficulties.

He contended that petroleum ministry and ECC was not legally empowered to issue policy guidelines on UFG and provision of doubt debts in the first place as it is a direct jurisdiction of OGRA which it has been exercising since its inception in 2002.

“The government and regulator are obligated to launch the campaign against gas theft rather passing the theft of gas to the consumers,” maintained the petitioner.

Advocate Farrukh continued that the Supreme Court of Pakistan through a November 25, 2011 judgement had shown serious concerns on high UFG of 11 per cent on SNGPL system and 9.5 per cent on SSGCL system and also referred the matter of increasing UFG benchmark from 5 per cent to 7 per cent for year 2009-2010 to NAB for investigation.

He contended that rectification of gas leakages is the core responsibility of the company to which any negligence is not entertainable as gas leakages are clearly as controllable factor.

The petitioner added that theft of gas has contributed towards increase of UFG but the same should have been curtailed after the promulgation of Criminal Amendment Act, 2011.

 Therefore, he prayed to the IHC single bench to declare the increase in UFG as illegal and unlawful.