KARACHI: The Sindh High Court sought on Friday a reply from Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and other officials in a petition filed against Ismail for not signing the draft Sindh Coronavirus Emergency Relief Ordinance.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed was hearing the plea.
The petitioner's counsel informed the court that a draft of the proposed ordinance was prepared by the government on April 8 and sent to the Sindh governor for his approval. However, he added, Ismail had not yet signed the draft despite having had several days to do so.
He maintained that the citizens of the province needed relief during the ongoing lockdown, adding that the ordinance includes measures such as the waiving of rent and utility bills, payment of salaries to factory workers and restrictions on their termination.
The counsel moved the court to restrict factory owners from firing their employees and to reopen factories while following safety measures.
Meanwhile, the government's lawyer informed the court that the Sindh government had devised standard operating procedures under which factories across the province could reopen.
After hearing the arguments, Justice Mazhar observed that providing relief to the public was a serious issue, adding that the court should be kept informed about the progress of the ordinance.
The court issued notices to the Sindh governor and other authorities, seeking their replies by May 4.
Dr Aafia's repatriation
The same bench ordered the petitioner's counsel to submit a counter-reply in a plea seeking the repatriation of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently incarcerated in the United States (US).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had submitted a reply in court stating that the issue of better treatment of Siddiqui had been raised before US authorities. The reply said that the US had also carried out an investigation regarding Siddiqui's maltreatment in prison, as a result of which a local staff member was terminated.
The reply further claimed that the issue of Siddiqui's release had been raised on higher platforms several times, adding that an appeal of mercy signed by Siddiqui herself was sent to the US President in March while her family was kept fully informed about all matters relating to her.
Subsequently, the court ordered the petitioner's counsel to submit a counter-reply by May 5.
Safety measures at court
Separately, the bench sought details about Covid-19 prevention measures at courts while hearing a plea pertaining to the absence of safety arrangements.
The plea sought the installation of disinfection gates, coronavirus testing kits and N-95 masks for court staff.
Justice Mazhar sought an explanation for the absence of safety measures at the courts, adding that all other Sindh government departments had been provided with safety measures and equipment. He said that sanitising machines should be installed at the gates, while pointing out that health department staff could easily be deputed at the courts.
"The high court clinic doctor and staff of the city court have tested positive for Covid-19 and dozens of people visit the courts on a daily basis," he observed, adding that ensuring their safety is necessary.
Meanwhile, Sindh additional advocate-general Jawad Dero maintained that testing kits for coronavirus were being provided to hospitals.
The court sought details about safety measures in the courts and adjourned the hearing till April 28.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2020.