The Sindh High Court reserved on Thursday its verdict on the provincial government’s review petition against the court’s decision to remove all own pay scale (OPS) officers from government departments.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Salahuddin Panhwar and Justice Adnanul Karim Memon sought a list of all junior officers appointed on high-ranking positions on OPS system.
Irked at the system, which allows a BS-Grade 17 officer to work on a BS-Grade 18 position while drawing a salary at his own pay scale, the bench had given the provincial government 10 days last month to remove OPS officers from all government departments. The provincial government had filed a review petition against the order issued on a plea challenging such appointments in the health department.
At the hearing on Thursday, Sindh health department officials earned the court’s ire for poor ambulance services in the province. If other provinces can provide ambulance services then why not Sindh, asked the bench.
To this, the health secretary replied that the Sindh government has launched an ambulance service in collaboration with the private sector. Around 60 ambulances are functional, he said.
This irked the bench further as it observed that government ambulances could not be seen in the province.
Chippa and Edhi ambulances are available but not government ambulances, interjected the petitioner.
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As the hearing progressed, the bench expressed annoyance at the shortage of doctors in prison hospitals.
Replying to the court’s query, the health secretary said that the Sindh home department is responsible for appointing doctors in prisons.
The bench observed that directors in Karachi and Hyderabad have been given three additional posts. The same person has served as the director for Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital for 10 years, along with holding additional charge of three other posts, remarked Justice Panhwar.
The petitioner’s counsel stated that Dr Usman is still posted at JPMC despite court orders for his transfer.
At this, the court sought a list of all doctors posted in violation of court orders. The bench warned of contempt of court action against relevant government departments if proper mechanisms for appointments and postings were not followed.
Seeking a list of all OPS officers in the local government department, the bench reserved its verdict on the Sindh government’s review petition.
Funds for missing persons
Separately, a three-member bench, led by Justice Panhwar, sought the Sindh attorney-general’s reply on the provision of funds for families of missing persons.
Hearing a petition seeking the recovery of missing persons and a sponsorship mechanism for their families, the bench was informed that the federal and provincial governments provide no financial assistance to families of missing persons.
The bench questioned how families of missing persons could continue supporting themselves when their bread winner was missing. Doesn’t the government have allowances or funds, asked the court. If the government cannot support affected families financially, then it should provide the children or wives of missing persons with government jobs, remarked Justice Panhwar.
To this, the Sindh AG replied that if some people are given government jobs then dozens more will come with similar applications. The government lawyer said that the social welfare department could extend financial support if it has the capacity to do so.
Meanwhile, the federal government’s lawyer maintained that the prime minister is deeply concerned about missing persons and has directed provision of financial assistance to affected families through the Ehsaas programme or under the Baitul Mal budget.
The decision of the Islamabad High Court regarding compensation was suspended by the Supreme Court, said the federal lawyer, submitting a copy of the apex court’s decision before the bench.
The issue of missing persons is very important, remarked Justice Panhwar. He observed that the families of missing persons have been visiting the courts for the past eight years.
At this, the Sindh AG contended that some people go missing on their own. Not every case is the same, said the Sindh lawyer.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2021.