HC for giving ‘burial’ to profiteering, overcharging in JK

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has asked government to give wide publicity to fair price of essential commodities in the state to enable general public to have access to the information “so that the profiteering and overcharging is giving a burial.”
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation—G M Wani & Another Vs Director CAPD, a division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi also directed Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department to give “serious consideration” to the suggestion of opening own fair price shops in the state.
As the hearing begun, Advocate General M I Qadri submitted that the prices of the commodities are available online on the website of the CAPD and even the price lists are circulated in newspapers.
“It should be known to public through television and radio that the fair price lists are available and can be downloaded and even cell phones could be used for checking the fair price. Such a course would enable members of general public to have access to the information so that the profiteering and overcharging is giving burial,” the Division Bench said.
The price list, it said, should be highlighted and the displayed on the television and shall also be announced on the radio.
“A direction is issued to the television as well authorities (Doordarshan Srinagar) to permit CAPD Department to publish and announce the price commodities,” it said, underling that it has to be displayed not only in the cities of Jammu and Srinagar but in all other tehsil headquarters.
The court also directed the Srinagar Municipal Corporation to identify 20 places where hoardings will be erected to display price commodities as fixed by the CAPD. The place should be identified in consultation with Deputy Director, CAPD Department.
At this point, Advocate General suggested that such hoardings shall also be erected at grand mosques and shrines. He also submitted that a communication has been sent to the Railways who have recommended the case to higher authorities of Delhi for according sanction.
Counsel for SMC, advocate Firdous Ahmad Mir stated that the SMC would not charge for erection of hoardings as it is a social obligation of the Corporation.
“Once the general public is aware of the fair price of essential commodities, then the overcharging is likely to come to an end,” the court reiterated.
In another direction, the bench asked SMC to constitute 16 teams comprising at least two members of Enforcement Department, and each of them would check overcharging, hoardings and profiteering in two out of total 32 wards in the Corporation.
“Another suggestion made is that the CAPD Department may open their own fair price shops in various areas of Srinagar and Jammu cities and then the same be expanded to other  tehsil  headquarters; suggestion is worthy of serious consideration and the decision be taken in that regard before the next date of hearing,” the court said and asked CAPD as well as SMC to file status report.
At the same, Advocate G Wani, petitioner in person, expressed apprehension that only paper work is being done without achieving any substantial success on the ground.
He pointed out that the fair price fixed by the Committee comprising of the officers of CAPD Department, Voluntary Organization and some NGOs have not adhered to and the sellers have been overcharging, profiteering and black marketing.
“We grant liberty to Wani to bring before the court or before the authorities by giving details particulars, so that, suitable action against either by the court or by the authority be initiated.”
Earlier, court perused compliance report filed by Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, showing that hoardings displaying the approved rate list have been installed at crowded places in every tehsil headquarter of the north Kashmir district.
The DC said tehsil level flying squads have also been constituted to ensure that the commodities are sold at the approved rates.
“The flying squads have conducted market checking and a large quantity of rotten vegetables and fruits etc. have been destroyed on spot in various tehsils and fine to the tune of Rs 3300 in tehsil Pattan only has been imposed.”
Director, CAPD also filed a status report, disclosing that it has erected digital display boards which are functional and displaying the rates of essential commodities at the main gate of the Directorate and in the office complex of Deputy Commissioner Srinagar.