SHC seeks explanation for formation of new Thar commission

Petitioners claim the formation was a deliberate attempt to subvert judicial proceedings



KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued on Tuesday notice to the provincial chief secretary to explain the formation of yet another judicial commission to investigate the causes of deaths in the drought-hit areas of Thar in alleged disobedience of the court's order for the 'second consecutive time.'

The division bench, headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar, which had reserved an order last week on a plea for contempt proceedings against the chief secretary, Sajjad Saleem Hotiana, for forming an earlier commission contrary to the court's order, has directed the respondent to submit his reply by December 16.

On December 6, the Sindh government formed a new commission, comprising retired judges, Ghulam Sarwar Korai and Anand Ram Talreja, to investigate the causes of the crisis in Thar and mitigate the situation.

A group of non-government organisations, including the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and human rights activist, Javed Burki, however, challenged the commission's formation on Tuesday.

They recalled that the petitioners had proposed to form a commission to mitigate and resolve the situation in the areas hit by the drought in the province. On this, the SHC bench on April 11 had directed the petitioners' lawyer and the federal and provincial law officers to suggest the composition and mandate of the commission.

The chief secretary had, however, made such a commission instead of proposing the composition and mandate of the same to the court, which was described as an attempt to subvert the judicial order, they said. On April 29, the SHC suspended the operation of the notification on the inquiry commission's formation and initiated proceedings on the contempt plea against the chief secretary, they added.

The petitioners' lawyer, Faisal Siddiqui, claimed that the two judges had reserved their verdict on December 4 on the contempt plea against the chief secretary for the formation of the commission. But the Sindh government issued a statement on December 6 regarding the formation of another so-called commission in relation to the Thar tragedy, he said. He argued that the formation of the commission a day after the SHC reserved its order on the issue "is clearly an attempt to subvert and interfere with and prejudice the due course of judicial proceedings in this case."

The court was pleaded to suspend the directives or notifications for the formation of the so-called commission and also restrain the respondents from taking any steps in relation to such directives or notifications till the petition was pending. After the initial hearing, the bench issued notices to the chief secretary, the AG and others to file their comments by December 16.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2014.

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