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May 28, 2020

SHC moved for reinstatement of labourers sacked during COVID-19 lockdown

Karachi

May 28, 2020

A petition was filed in the Sindh High Court seeking the restoration of thousands of labourers, including 4,000 polio workers of the health department, sacked during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown the government has imposed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Petitioner Syed Iqbal Kazmi submitted that the Sindh government had issued instructions to the factory owners to not sack employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown and to ensure the payment of their salaries without any deduction.

He said several factory owners had sacked thousands of labourers, reduced salaries and did not grant the government- announced leave to them, which was a violation of the Sindh Terms of Employment Act 2015.

He said the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI) failed to perform its duty during the COVID-19 pandemic for the welfare of labourers. He said the labour and SESSI department failed to provide either details of registered labourers or any financial assistance to them during the pandemic.

The petitioner submitted that SESSI hospitals and dispensaries had been closed during the pandemic despite the fact that R522 million had been spent on their upgradation.

He said private factories’ owners and the health department itself violated the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance as thousands of employees from private institutions, including 4,000 polio workers from 89 union councils of Karachi, had been removed from their jobs without fulfilling the legal requirements.

The court was requested to direct the health department and private factory owners to restore employees and polio workers who were removed from their jobs during the pandemic and pay them salaries and deducted amounts, and to also direct SESSI to provide details of labourers and employees who were provided financial relief during the lockdown.

DHA administrator

The Sindh High Court repeated a notice to the administrator of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) on a petition against the operation of a wine shop in the neighbourhood. The directioncame during a hearing of a petition of Samira Mahamadi, who challenged the opening of a wine shop in DHA Phase I.

The petitioner submitted that the wine shop had been allowed to be operated in the Muslim-populated area, and despite several complaints to the DHA no action had been taken to shift the shop from the residential area.

She submitted that the wine shop was illegally operating in the residential area not only in violation of the cantonment laws but also contrary to the injunctions of the Hadd Order 1979. She submitted that the wine shop was operating on a regular basis despite the fact that they were restricted to selling wine only on religious festivals of non-Muslims. She also filed a rejoinder to a reply of the excise department as well as thee wine shop, and requested the court to direct the excise department to cancel the licence of the shop for operating it in violation of the law.

The excise department had earlier filed its comments before the court submitting that liquor licences are granted under Article 17 of the Prohibition (enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979 read with Rule 23(1) of THE Sindh prohibition rules, and before the opening of a wine shop in any area the department ensures that no educational and religious institution is situated within 100 yards of the proposed licenced premises and the residents of the area have no objection to the operation of the shop.

The SHC on March 2, 2017 had directed the excise and taxation department to seal all the wine shops throughout the province and directed the provincial government to evolve a mechanism in consultation with the stakeholders, including citizens and wine shop owners, to ensure that a practical, transparent and implementable mechanism was put forward which ensured that licensed wine shops sold wine and liquor to only non-Muslims and non-Muslim foreigners in quantities allowed under a quota as part of their religious ceremonies. Besides, the court directed that a proper record of these sales be made which would be available to the public.

The court observed that the wine shops were bound to ensure that these shops sold wine to only non-Muslim in a limited quota and only as part of religious festivals. It observed that until a mechanism as undertaken by the provincial government was taken place, the wine shops spread all over the province were clearly engaged in the illegal sale of wine and liquor without ensuring that it was sold only to non-Muslims alone and that too in a prescribed quota, thus doing the wine business was not only in complete violation of the prohibition rules but they were operating contrary to the injunctions of the Hadd Order 1979.

The court had observed that there was no provision under Section 17 of the Prohibition (enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979, creating a legal possibility for granting general licences to liquor shops to operate throughout the year.

The court observed that non-Muslim could only be provided liquor for consumption at their religious ceremonies for which a request in advance had to be made by them with supporting evidence from their religious bodies.