The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the provincial education department on Saturday to speed up the procurement of 1.6 million desks for government-run primary schools in the province.
A two-member bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito, issued the instruction as it heard a plea deeming the tender floated for the procurement of the desks "controversial".
The court expressed annoyance over delays in the procurement of the desks for the past eight years and remarked that in the absence of desks, children had to take classes while sitting on the ground.
"Who is responsible for this incompetence?" questioned Justice Sahito.
Following the rebuke, education department officials informed the court that the purchase of 250,000 desks was in process.
However, the counsel for the petitioner, which is a private company, maintained that there were irregularities issued in the tender float for the purchase of 250,000 desks.
"Hence, the tender, which was issued on March 16, shall be declared invalid," he moved the court.
At that, Justice Mazhar inquired about the measures taken and efforts being made for procuring the desks.
Education department officials reiterated that the procurement of 250,000 was under way and the process would complete within few months.
The court directed the education department to expedite the procurement and submit a report on the matter.
Separately, a bench comprising Justice Mazhar and Justice Arshad Hussain Khan directed the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to issue within 15 days the national identity card (NIC) to a former SHC employee, Abu Hashim, who had filed a plea stating that NADRA had not renewed his card.
According to the plea, Hashim had been a court employee from 1997 to 2019 and was first issued a national identity card in 1982.
The petitioner stated that he never faced any issues regarding the renewal of his card until 2019, when he came to know that his card had been blocked after he visited a back to withdraw money from his account. He said NADRA had blocked his card after issuing a show-cause notice to him.
Issuing a written order on Hashim's plea, the court pointed out flaws in NADRA's policies.
The court pointed out that there was a lack of clarity with regards to the status of citizens whose NIC had been blocked.
"Should such a citizen be expelled from the country or treated as a foreigner?" the court raised the question.
The court further noted that NADRA did not have the authority to block NICs without any solid reasons and blocking a card after issuing just a single show-cause was "illegal".
"Blocking a card on the basis of allegations of terrorism and money laundering is different from blocking a card because a citizen failed to submit the required documents," the court noted, inquiring whether any action had been taken against persons responsible for blocking NICs in the past.
Expressing dissatisfaction over NADRA's mechanism for blocking NICs, the court stated that the authority had failed to answer the questions raised in the case.
The court directed NADRA to issue Hashim's NIC within 15 days.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2021.
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