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Rai in fresh licence war on Busia Sugar




West Kenya Sugar chairman Jaswant Singh Rai when he appeared before National Assembly Committee on Implementation on October 23. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Businessman Jaswant Singh Rai has renewed his fight to block Busia Sugar Industries Limited from being licensed, less than a month after the firm was given the go-ahead to operate a Sh1.3 billion milling plant in western Kenya.

Mr Rai, through his firm West Kenya Sugar Company, has filed a fresh application seeking to suspend the license issued to Busia Sugar Company on November 9 arguing that Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) failed to hear his objection.

The AFA licensed Busia Sugar Company on November 9, the same day when the High Court dismissed Mr Rai’s petition seeking to block Busia Sugar Company from being licensed.

“Pending the hearing and determination of this application the honourable court be pleased to issue a conservatory order of injunction to restrain the fourth respondent (Busia Sugar Industries Limited) from commencing or engaging in sugar milling activities pursuant to the sugar milling license granted by the first respondent (AFA) as communicated in its letter to the petitioner dated November 9, 2018,” reads one of the orders sought by West Kenya Sugar Company.

Mr Rai in his petition claims that the High Court rejected his earlier petition on grounds of allowing the AFA to exercise its statutory duty before it can be challenged in court.

He argues that the authority is bound by the court decision, which directed him to raise his grievances with the regulator that he claims is obliged to hear and determine.

However, he says the same day the High Court delivered its decision, the AFA granted the firm a licence without hearing his objection hence infringing on his rights.

Justice Eric Mwita dismissed the earlier petition the West Kenya Sugar had filed on the grounds that Mr Rai’s firm did not identify any AFA missteps in the then ongoing process of licensing Busia Sugar Company.

West Kenya Sugar Company had in April obtained a court order stopping the AFA from issuing Busia Sugar an operating licence, putting on hold its Sh1.3 billion investment, but the dismissal of the case gave the AFA leeway to issue the permit.

Busia Sugar has over the past five years been fighting to get a milling licence but numerous court cases existing millers filed seeking to protect their territory crippled its efforts. If licensed, it bears the potential of opening a fresh battle for sugar cane where three millers already exist.

In opposing the application, Mr Rai had argued that the rival firm had not obtained a new environmental impact assessment licence after the High Court suspended the previous one in 2016.