ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court will resume the hearing of suo moto notice taken by Chief Justice of Pakistan about the government’s measures to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country on Monday (today).
A five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed will conduct hearing of suo moto notice wherein the federal government as well as four provinces has informed that a uniform national policy has been proposed for combating Covid-19 in consultation with the provinces which will be implemented by the federal government in consistent manner throughout Pakistan.
The federal government and all the four provinces submitted their respective reports in the Supreme Court in suo motu case regarding combating the pandemic of coronavirus.
Two new members, including Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood have been added to the bench due to non-availability of Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. Justice Umar Ata Bandial will be hearing cases at the Lahore Registry from next week while Justice Sajjad Ali Shah will be hearing cases at the Karachi Registry.
In pursuance of the court’s last order, the Centre and four provinces filed their respective reports about the steps taken for dealing with the pandemic. In its report, the federal government through Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mahmood, informed the court that the latest meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan proposed for adoption of uniform national policy for combating COVID-19 in consultation with the provinces which will be implemented by the federal government in consistent manner throughout Pakistan as per direction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The report also said that during the meeting Attorney General Khalid Javed informed about the order passed by the apex court in the suo motu case regarding coronavirus. The AG pointed out that the observation of the apex court that a national uniformed policy should be adopted by the federal and provincial governments to combat the pandemic as it affects fundamental rights of the people.
The AG emphasised that the apex court’s observations that the federal government has to take lead in consultation with the provincial governments, take into account the advice of the medical experts and implementation of required SOPs and the government should also reopen trade and businesses, particularly the small ones, including community shops and small traders being the vulnerable segments of the society, involving livelihood of millions of people.
It was stated in the report that after detailed deliberations, the committee decided that construction sector could proceed with phase-II of the plan as per SOPs till May 11. Offices, shopping malls, public congregations, wedding halls and public gatherings would remain closed until May 21, 2020.
The court was informed that the decision to extend the shutdown or otherwise would be taken before May 31 while small community markets in urban and rural areas would be opened. It was further informed that the committee decided that provinces would notify Saturday and Sunday as days for complete lock down except essential services.
It was told that all the educational institutions would remain close till July 15, 2020 and further extension of the period of closing down could be reviewed in the last week of June, 2020.
The Punjab government in its report while defending its steps being taken for dealing with COVID-19 submitted that the provincial government is empowered to make legislation pertaining to health sector as well as maintaining peace and informed the court that in order to take effective measures for providing better health facilities to the people as well as maintaining peace promulgated Punjab Infection Diseases and Control Prevention Ordinance 2020, adding that the federal government has empowered the provinces to take decision relating to lockdown.
The report claimed to have full harmony with the federal government, adding that the provincial government suspended business activities in line with the direction of the Centre.
The report further stated that there is no difference among the federal government and provinces relating to lockdown. It added that lockdown was necessary for the safety of the people. Previously, the apex court had expressed its dissatisfaction over the federal and provincial governments and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) reports regarding the measures taken by them to curtail coronavirus pandemic.
The top court had directed the federal and provincial governments to devise a joint policy to tackle the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the country.