KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered the Government of Sindh on Wednesday to establish a Cancer Authority while hearing a plea regarding the ban on gutka, mawa and mainpuri. The case was heard by a single bench comprising Justice Salahuddin Panhwar.
The health director-general submitted that more than 176,000 people in the province were affected by cancer in the past five years. He told the court that Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) has sought a grant of Rs600 million on an emergency basis from the provincial government.
The court expressed concern over the high number of cancer cases in the province and directed the Sindh government to constitute a Cancer Authority with medical experts from JPMC and the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT). Besides, the court directed immediate legislation on the ban on gutka and the release of special funds for JPMC.
Meanwhile, a two-member bench comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Agha Faisal summoned the agriculture secretary in personal capacity while hearing a plea filed against the non-payment of dues to sugarcane farmers.
The bench expressed annoyance at the Sindh government for the frequent transfers of sugarcane commissioners.
“Is this your civil service structure where the officer who wants to work is transferred?” remarked Justice Mazhar, adding that the cane commissioner who notifies sugar mill owners is removed from his post while the relevant minister and secretary don’t know about it. “Do you want the court to issue a stay order? A new cane commissioner appears before the court at every hearing,” he remarked. The judge asked why the cane commissioner is appointed if he is ineligible and remarked that people have their money stuck.
The representative of the agriculture department told the court that the chief secretary transfers the cane commissioners.
“Doesn’t the chief secretary bother to consult the relevant secretary?” asked Justice Mazhar. The court directed the advocate-general to seek an explanation from the chief secretary in this regard and inform the court.
The bench also summoned the agriculture secretary in personal capacity and issued directives for the crushing of sugarcane to be initiated on time. The court directed the Sindh government to fix sugarcane rates before the crushing season commenced. Bandi, Sakrand and Sehri sugar mills were directed to pay the remaining dues of 2017 and 2018 to farmers.
According to Advocate Mureed Ali Shah, the court had directed 11 sugar mills of the province to pay the farmers at the rate of Rs160 per maund. All sugar mills have paid the arrears except those three.
The same bench issued notices to the relevant parties over the contempt of court plea against the secretary of the ministry of religious affairs and others for not complying with judicial orders pertaining to Hajj quota.
The petitioner’s counsel maintained that the court had ordered the categorisation of travel agents and tour operators, and for the Hajj quota to be distributed accordingly. The counsel argued that quota was being distributed without categories which was a violation of judicial orders.
The ministry of religious affairs deputy director told the court that categorisation ended in 2010. The case has been sent to the cabinet division again, he said.
The bench issued a notice to the ministry of religious affairs and sought a written response by November 11.
Unpaid arrears to farmers
Another two-member bench, headed by SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali Shaikh and comprising Justice Omar Sial, summoned the food secretary and the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Sukkur director-general while hearing the case pertaining to corruption of Rs400 million by acquiring wheat from the food department.
NAB and the food department submitted details of their meeting before the court. According to an official of the food department, NAB officials and flour mill owners have reached a solution. All the mills had returned the money for wheat but the money for mark-up was not paid, he said adding that the mill owners have been informed of the details regarding the mark-up money.
The NAB official informed the court that Ranipur Flour Mills owes Rs60,100,917 in mark-up dues, Khairpur Flour Mills owes Rs13,368,256, while Goyang Flour Mills owes Rs28,893,262 in mark-up dues.
The petitioner’s counsel maintained that it was not possible to pay these amounts in a day. He told the court that the money for the wheat given by the government was paid in 180 days according to the policy.
The NAB official told the court that flour mill owners had ‘misplaced’ the wheat after acquiring it from the government.
The court summoned the food secretary and NAB’s Sukkur director-general and adjourned the hearing till November 1. The bench also sought the wheat policy from the food department and details from NAB.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2019.