SC ‘fully cognisant’ of Covid-19 menace in Pakistan

In its written order, bench says govt did take immediate steps to tackle virus, mitigate its effects on the people

Hasnaat Malik May 20, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it is "fully cognisant" regarding the menace of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19)  in Pakistan and also to the fact that the disease has caused a large number of fatalities and a considerable number of people have been infected and their numbers are increasing day-by-day.

"It is obvious that this coronavirus (Covid-19) has come as an additional burden on the Government of Pakistan and the manner in which this virus has started spreading in Pakistan, has set the alarm bell ringing. This virus being new, there was no readiness of the government to deal with the same, nor the necessary medical equipment were available to face the growing number of infected cases,ÔÇØ read the written order issued by the five-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed during the hearing of the suo motu case related to the coronavirus crisis in the country.

The written order further stated that the government did take immediate steps to tackle this virus and mitigate its effects on the people of Pakistan, and in this regard, a colossal amount of money was diverted and used.

ÔÇ£We admit that Pakistan has a struggling economy and coronavirus (Covid-19) made it more staggering. However, we note that the people of Pakistan have a fundamental right, namely, right to life, under which Government of Pakistan is required to provide to the people of Pakistan safe and healthy living conditions,ÔÇØ it added.

Referring to Article 149 (1) and (4), the order further states that the executive authority of all the provinces are mandatorily required to be exercised so as not to impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive authority of the federation and the executive authority of the federation shall extend to giving directions to provinces, as may appear necessary to the government.

ÔÇ£The executive authority of the federation shall also extend to giving of directions to provinces as to the manner in which the executive authority of the provinces is to be exercised for the purpose of preventing any grave menace to the peace or tranquillity or economic life of Pakistan or any part thereof.

"Obviously, the coronavirus (Covid-19) is a grave menace to the peace, tranquillity and economic life of Pakistan, and thus, the executive authority of the federation shall stand extended to giving of the directions to the provinces to prevent the menace" the order maintained.

The court also directed that salaries of all the sanitary staff should be paid by all the governments and local governments including, HDA.

"The pension of the sanitary staff shall also be paid.  The salaries and pensions shall be released and paid in full within two days. The conditions of sanitary staff, employed by the contractors, shall also be examined. The sanitary, being a core work of the government, we fail to understand as to how this work is being done by awarding contracts. Apparently, such contracts are mere sham contracts and this court on the next date of hearing will examine this issue"

All government departments are further directed in the order to file before the court copies of the contracts with the contractors employing sanitary employees.

ÔÇ£All their dues shall also be paid by the contractors positively within two days and if not done so by the contractors, the same be done by the respective governments. Let a compliance report in this regard be also submitted to the court," the order added.

On Monday, the apex court noted the country could not be made completely dysfunctional due to contagious coronavirus disease as it ordered the federal and all provincial governments to allow reopening of shopping malls and lifting restrictions on doing businesses on Saturdays and Sundays.

The court also asked the federal and provincial governments not to use all their resources to fight coronavirus disease, which, it observed, has not become a pandemic in the country ÔÇô particularly when the country is facing numerous other challenges, including other deadly diseases.

ÔÇ£We are not suggesting by any means that the governments should not attend to coronavirus but we expect that the governments should not put all their resources for this one disease, nor the country should be made altogether dysfunctional because of this disease.


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