Supreme Court rules in Centre’s favour in Sheikh Zayed Hospital case

Provinces ordered to hand over specified hospitals, museum in 90 days


Our Correspondent January 17, 2019
Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday handed the ownership of the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Lahore to the federal government, ruling that it was handed over to the province over an erroneous interpretation of the 18th Amendment.

In its verdict, the court stated that “the Centre reserves the right to build and run hospitals”.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar headed the five-member bench that delivered the split 4-1 verdict, with Justice Maqbool Baqir writing a dissenting note.

It ruled that the management of the Sheikh Zayed Hospital was transferred to the Punjab government without due legal process.

"No law can stop the transfer of this hospital to the Centre," the verdict said. "There should be a balance between the powers of provincial and federal government."

The judgment went on to state that the ownership of three hospitals and the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi was also handed over to the Sindh government without due process.

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The top court ordered that the management of all four hospitals as well as the museum be transferred to the Centre within 90 days.

Provincial governments can seek an extension from the court if the process of ownership transfer is not completed in 90 days, the ruling added.

On Wednesday, a five-member bench had dismissed the Sindh government’s appeal over a dispute on the management of three major hospitals in Karachi — namely the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), National Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases (NICVD) and National Institute of Child Health (NICH) — and ordered that their management be transferred to the federal government.

In its ruling, the apex court also ordered the federal government to reimburse the expenses borne by the provincial governments for the upkeep and management of the hospitals and museum.

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A verdict by the apex court in 2016 declared the hospitals to fall under the ownership of the federal government. However, the Sindh government had contended that in accordance with the 18th Amendment, the hospitals should be devolved to the provincial government.

The 18th Constitutional Amendment passed in April 2010 made the president a ceremonial head of state and took away the executive authority from the post. It also resulted in the abolition of several ministries at the federal level and increase in provincial authority.

During the hearings of the case, CJP Nisar had said that it was difficult for the court to interpret the 18th Amendment in the absence of parliamentary debate on it.

He had remarked that the amendment was drafted without soliciting input from stakeholders, as is the norm in developed democracies.

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