ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Wednesday questioned the constitutional and legal status of spending of Rs20 billion subsidy on purchase of fertiliser under the Kissan Package announced by the federal government last year.

The federal government in October 2015 had announced subsidy to farmers on the purchase of diammonium phosphate (DAP), nitrophosphate (NP) and nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertiliser with immediate effect. The Ministry of National Food Security and Research notification said that the facility will continue till the pledged amount of Rs20 billion is spent.

A two-member bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal heard the federal government appeal against Peshawar High Court judgment regarding subsidy matter. Agritech Limited, manufacturer of Single Super Phosphate (SSP) in Haripur, District Hazara Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had challenged the government discriminatory attitude in distribution of subsidy. The PHC had given verdict in their favour.

Justice Qazi Faez inquired from attorney general whether the subsidy under the Kissan Package is legal and constitutional. AGP Ashtar Ausaf replied it is constitutional and said under the constitution the government has authority to issue funds.

Justice Qazi then posed another question whether the government has authority to issue such funds without the approval of the parliament. He said the approval for the supplementary grant must be obtained besides the financial budget.

The judge said it seemed the government is by-passing the parliament, adding billion of rupees for subsidy under Kissan Package were issued without any law. He asked if the parliament does not approve the supplementary grant then who would deposit this money in the national kitty.

Justice Qazi said when the government has the majority in the parliament then why it had not obtained the approval of Kissan Package , adding after spending Rs20 billion the parliament’s consent would be like a rubber stamp.

The attorney general contended that how the court could assume the parliament’s approval would be a rubber stamp. He said the government responds to the questions and not to presumptions.

Justice Qazi further said they would have no objection that after the parliament’s approval the government may spend Rs 20 billion in one day. He said the money in national exchequer is from public taxes, adding the wealth in national exchequer is not of any individual and the government must had obtained the approval of subsidy for fertiliser under Kissan package earlier.

The counsel for Agritech Limited argued that the government had made discrimination with them in distribution of subsidy. Justice Qazi asked the attorney general to recommend to the government to legislate laws for subsidy, adding if there is no law presently then everyone should be given subsidy equally.

The attorney general said they would consider the court proposal. He, however, said the subsidy is given through notification. The court directed attorney general to give arguments tomorrow and adjourned the hearing till today (Thursday).