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August 12, 2020

Sindh Charities Registration and Regulation Act challenged in SHC

Karachi

August 12, 2020

The Sindh High Court issued notices to the law ministry, the charities registration and regulation commission and other respondents on Tuesday on a petition of non-governmental organisations against the newly introduced charities registration and regulation law in the province.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and other NGOs submitted in the petition that the provincial government introduced the Sindh Charities Registration and Regulation Act, 2019 to register NGOs to monitor their funding.

The petitioners’ counsel, Rasheed A Razvi, submitted that the impugned act had been exacted to frustrate the civil society engaged in public welfare activities and gain access to financial resources of all petitioners and use the information as a tool to control the civil society.

He said the government wanted to impose curbs on the freedom of association far beyond what was permissible under the Constitution or Pakistan’s obligation under international treaties and conventions.

Razvi submitted that impugned legislation was ultra vires of the constitution, and if it was allowed to operate it would create unprecedented discomfort among the general population and the civil society, leaving the social welfare system shattered and eventually collapsed.

He submitted that the impugned legislation had provided a summary trial against the NGOs and punishment of six months to one year’s imprisonment in case of fraud and tampering with the record with regard to the collection of charity funds.

He argued that the purpose of the government was not just to regulate the NGOs but to incapacitate and debilitate them as well.

The counsel stated that the impugned act had failed to provide any relief for the registration of NGOs, and on the contrary it had provided a cumbersome and oppressive process for the re-registration of charities and NGOs, which were working for the betterment of the downtrodden class of the people.

He submitted the legislation had been promulgated to eliminate, ban or suspend all registration and other welfare activities of NGOs working at international, national, provincial and local levels in Pakistan.

The petitioners also challenged the NGO policy of 2013 issued by the federal government with regard to the registration and working of NGOs. They said provisions of the policy as well as the act came under serious doubt because of the oppressive conditions that it imposed on the civil society and NGOs, resulting in serious obstacles to their charitable work in different fields of welfare.

The court was requested to declare the Sindh Charities Registration and Regulation Act, 2019 as ultra vires and violative of the fundamental rights as enshrined under the constitution and quash sections 3, 9, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 of the law, as they, introduced as a tool for oppression and discrimination, were liable to be struck down.

The petitioners also sought an injunction against the Economic Affairs Division to declare that the federal government had no statutory backing, or locus standi, to frame, regulate enact rules titled as NGOs Policy 2013 and the same was liable to be struck down, and in meantime to restrain its implementation till a decision on the petition.

A division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, after the preliminary hearing of the petition, issued notices to the federal and provincial law officers, the ministry of law, the charities registration and regulation commission and others, and called their comments on August 26.