KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) suspended on Thursday the orders issued by the Sindh government regarding a concession in school fees amid the lockdown, issuing a notice to the provincial education department and others.
A two member bench, comprising Justice Nadeem Akhtar and Justice Adnanul Karim Memon, heard the petition.
The petitioner's counsel said that the government had ordered a 20 per cent concession in tuition fees, while directing schools to pay full salaries to the staff. It was not possible to bear the expenditure after cutting the fees, he added.
He further stated that it was also unclear whether the decision was taken by the cabinet or someone else. The government took the step without consulting the stakeholders, the counsel argued.
The court issued notices to the education department and others, ordering the government to submit a reply by April 22.
Separately, a two-member bench comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed sought details of the ration distribution drive in the province from the Sindh government, South deputy commissioner (DC) and other parties, after a petitioner alleged that the pulses in ration bags were infested with insects.
The court was informed by Sindh additional advocate-general Jawad Dero that the provincial government has so far distributed 250,000 ration bags.
However, the petitioner, Ehsan Ali Bhutto, maintained that rations were distributed among just a few people in Lyari, alleging that the pulses in most of the ration bags were infested by insects. "Will people eat those pulses?" he raised the question.
He further elaborated that though there were 500,000 needy families in Lyari, ration was distributed among just 3,000 families in South district.
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At this, Justice Mazhar asked Dero whether what Bhutto said was true and sought details of the localities where rations were distributed and the items included in ration bags.
The court has ordered the Sindh government, South DC and other parties to submit their replies by April 24.
Dr Aafia's repatriation
The same bench also granted an extension to the deputy attorney-general for submitting the reply on a plea moving the court for Dr Aafia Siddiqui's repatriation, keeping in view the threat of the coronavirus.
At the hearing, the counsel of petitioner Fowzia Siddiqui, who is Dr Aafia's sister, informed the court that they had received no information about Dr Aafia for the last three years. Citing examples of other countries, he said that these countries had taken steps for the repatriation of their citizens imprisoned in the United States (US), adding that even those held in murder cases were being sent back to their home countries.
Fowzia informed the court that her mother had spoken to the Pakistan Consul-General in the US, Abrar Hashmi, on the phone a day before and he had told her that he was unable to contact Dr Aafia. He said that he had no knowledge of her wellbeing, said Fowzia, maintaining that according to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Aafia could not be barred from talking on the phone.
However, the deputy attorney-general informed that court that he had approached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant authorities and they had assured him of Aafia's wellbeing.
He requested the court for an extension for submitting the reply on the plea.
The court granted him an extension till April 24 and stated that it would wait for the government's reply before any further proceedings.
Correction: An earlier version of the story said the bench comprising Justices Mazhar and Sayeed held the hearing on the tuition fee petition. It was a different bench.