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Peshawar

February 3, 2017

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PHC issues notice to KP government

PHC issues notice to KP government

 Non-appointment of ombudsperson

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday issued notice to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to explain as to why the provincial ombudsperson has not been appointed to address the complaints of sexual harassment at workplaces since 2010. 

A division bench comprising PHC Chief Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ikramullah Khan issued the notice in a writ petition filed by lawyer Saifullah Mohib Kakakhel on behalf of the non-governmental organisation, Da Hawwa Lur Chief Executive Officer Khursheed Bano.

The petitioner sought appointment of ombudsperson under Section 7 of the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010. The provincial government through chief secretary, speaker and secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, secretary Law and Ministry of Women Empowerment and Social Welfare were made respondents.

During hearing, the lawyer submitted that many cases were highlighted by the media about sexual harassment, including those at the University of Peshawar, Khyber Medical College and other government institutions, but these were dealt by a wrong forum due to non-availability of the ombudsperson. He noted that later the cases were resolved by pressurising the students and victims of sexual harassment.

As per the law, he said, ombudsperson has the powers of civil court and civil procedure code is applicable to it. “It can impose major and minor penalty on the person found guilty in harassment cases. Ombudsperson can summon witnesses, send commission to record evidence and also has the powers of contempt of court,” he explained.

As per Section 7 of the Act, he submitted that a person qualified to become a judge of high court can be appointed ombudsperson. This rule was relaxed in Section 21 of the Act of 2013 that a person from social society who has worked for over 10 years on sexual harassment can also be appointed ombudsperson.

It was claimed in the petition that the federal, Sindh and Punjab governments have implemented the law and appointed ombudspersons, but no appointment was made by the previous ANP-led provincial government or by the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-headed coalition government.

The petitioner claimed that several months ago Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser assured that the ombudsperson would be appointed in a month, but the commitment was not honoured.

The petitioner said that representatives of civil society organisations met minister for women empowerment and chief secretary to seek early appointment of the ombudsperson, but in vain.

The petitioner requested the high court to direct the respondents to appoint ombudsperson forthwith and initiate awareness programme through the media so that women and members of the vulnerable classes know about the proper forum for redressing their complaints against sexual harassment at workplaces.

 

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