SC seeks reports on measures to fight COVID-19

Orders IG prisons to submit details about prison population, their actual capacities

Hasnaat Malik April 02, 2020
A man disinfects his hands before buying a low-priced food from a charity stall, during a lockdown after Pakistan shut all markets, public places and discouraged large gatherings amid an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Karach. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The top court has directed the federal and provincial governments as well as Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Islamabad administrations to submit reports about expected threats of coronavirus in their respective territories and the measures adopted by them to tackle the pandemic.

The court has also asked as to what steps have been taken for providing necessary training and equipment to doctors and paramedic staff for dealing with the contagious disease.

"What measures have been adopted so far by these governments for providing medicines, protective dresses, kits, medical equipment, ventilators, hospital beds, etc, for treatment of the patients?

“What is the state of readiness of all the hospitals of these governments, to provide adequate treatment to the patients; what inventory/stock these governments are maintaining …for meeting the looming surge of this pandemic,” said an order issued by a five-judge larger bench on Wednesday.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, was hearing a criminal petition against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) March 20 order regarding release of under trial prisoners (UTPs) from Rawalpindi’s overpopulated Adiala Jail in view of the contagious disease.

The court said it will hear arguments with regard to legality of the IHC order on the next date of hearing.

The bench also directed the inspectors general prison all over Pakistan to submit individual reports regarding population of prisoners in their respective prison and the actual capacity of the prisons.

The reports would also include categories of UTPs and convicted prisoners and separate list of prisoners, “as has been noted in recommendations of the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP)” and also vulnerable prisoners, as pointed out by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Qalb-i-Hassan.

The order also noted that a large number of prisoners enter the jail premises on daily basis and the jail authorities have not made any arrangement of screening of these new entrants in the jail.

“Thus, an order may be passed by this court that the new entrants are screened before they are allowed to enter the jail premises and if they are found to have any sign of coronavirus (COVID-19), they should be appropriately quarantined and not put in jail directly.”

The bench took notice of the SCBA president statement about more than 100 posts of jail doctor lying vacant and his claim that no steps are being taken by the respective governments for filling these posts and directed all the provincial governments as well as ICT and the G-B to fill the posts immediately.

The bench also directed authorities that quarantine centres be made by the respective jail authorities, immediately with all necessary infrastructure.

"In the meanwhile, we expect that the lawyers, who are interested in assisting this court, besides the learned amicus curiae, may file their written synopsis and such be done.”

The order said the Sindh Advocate General stated that 519 prisoners had been released from the provincial prisons and such orders of release was/were passed by a judicial magistrate along with the list of prisoners and as stated by the AG, the order of the release was authorized by the Sindh High Court (SHC) chief justice in his instructions.

"The learned AG states that he is going to provide a complete list of all the 519 prisoners, their names, their prisons, whether they were under trial or convicted prisoners, detail of cases they were facing/faced before the court(s), section(s) of law under which the offences for which they were being tried or convicted with short summary of facts of each case.

The court also asked him that the orders of the magistrate with a list of prisons, the direction issued by the SHC chief justice and any other order passed by any district & sessions judge/additional district & sessions judge may also be filed.

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snowman | 3 months ago | Reply | Recommend It's way past time that someone remind the SC that they are neither an executive or legislative branch of the government. They aren't responsible for controlling this virus and issuing orders like they are waste precious time/resources that should be devoted elsewhere. SC should be focused on fixing our broken judicial system which is considered one of the worse in the World.
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