Sindh govt springs into action to avoid account freezing

SC orders salaries to be paid to KDA employees, warns of contempt notices in case of failure to act

Naeem Sahoutara February 11, 2018

KARACHI: Earning the exceptional anger of the Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday, the administrative machinery of the Sindh government sprang into motion to ensure that salaries were paid to employees of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA).

The apex court warned that it would order the freezing of the provincial government’s accounts, besides initiating contempt of court proceedings against the provincial chief secretary and others concerned if the employees were not paid within two hours.

A two-judge bench, comprising justices Gulzar Ahmed and Maqbool Baqar, was hearing a case relating to non-payment of salaries to the 98 KDA employees who were sent on deputation to the Malir Development Authority.

On December 22 last year, the court had ordered the chief secretary to ensure payment of 17-month salaries to the employees, otherwise the state would be ordered to freeze the accounts of the Sindh government.

During Saturday's proceedings at the SC's Karachi Registry, the employees complained that they had not been paid salaries despite issuance of clear directives by the court.

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This visibly irked the bench members, who came down hard on Advocate-General Barrister Zamir Ghumro over the conduct of the authorities concerned towards implementation of the court's directives.

Justice Ahmed cautioned that the court will order the government’s accounts to be frozen if the payment was not made to the employees within two hours.

Ghumro informed the bench that the chief minister had already given approval for release of amount to pay the KDA employees and cheques will be given to them by Tuesday.

"Khuda ka khauf karo [have some fear of God]," Justice Baqar told the law officer, asking "What these poor [employees] would have been offering their children to eat."

Justice Ahmed observed that it could take hardly one day to pay the salaries, but the authorities concerned failed to do that, despite the issuance of clear directives by the court.

Taking serious exception to such conduct on the part of the provincial government, the SC bench told the AG to ensure that the petitioners were paid within two hours and submit a compliance report by noon.

When, the matter was taken up after the break, the AG requested one more day to make payment to the petitioner, which further irritated the judges.

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"It is very unfortunate that the whole province is being run by clerks," Justice Ahmed told the top provincial government law officer.

Justice Baqar remarked that "you turn the world upside down if your air-conditioner stops working for five minutes."

Justice Ahmed told the AG to ask the chief minister to appear in the court to explain why the employees had not been paid despite the court's clear directive. In a bungled attempt to save the government and the chief minister, AG Ghumro said the Sindh accountant-general's office was closed on Saturdays and requested time till Tuesday to enable the government make the payment.

However, the bench members were not impressed by the explanation. Justice Ahmed remarked that the government was not doing the employees any favors by making the payment. He wondered why the same was not done in two months while payment could be made in a single day.

After the law officer insisted, the judges told him that any further delays in the payment of salaries will create trouble for the government itself.

They gave give five minutes to the AG to ensure payment and said or else the court will pass an order, directing the state to freeze the government’s accounts.

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This warning swung the provincial machinery into motion. After contacting the provincial authorities, the law officer informed the court that the accountant-general's office had been opened despite the weekly holiday and cheques will be issued to the petitioners soon.

The bench directed the AG to ensure that payments were made to all the petitioners during the day (on Saturday) and submit a compliance report to the court by Monday.

Otherwise, they warned that the contempt of court proceedings will be initiated against the chief secretary and the accountant-general in case payment was not made to the petitioners.