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September 27, 2020

Chief secy, others put on notice on plea against non-technical officials in building plan approval committee

Karachi

September 27, 2020

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has issued notices to the chief secretary, services secretary and others on a petition against the appointment of non-technical officials in a committee of the Sindh government constituted to expedite the verification of documents for the approval of building plans by the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA).

Petitioner Mehmood Akhtar submitted in the petition that the chief secretary and services secretary issued a notification on July 16 for the constitution of a committee headed by the SBCA director general with a mandate to expedite the verification of documents for the approval of building plans by the SBCA.

He argued that the committee was not constituted with the approval of the provincial cabinet and hence the function of the committee was not in accordance with the law. The committee had been asked to devise a mechanism for speedy verification of the title documents within seven days and establish a title verification cell comprising representatives of the SBCA and landowning agencies.

The petitioner submitted that the appointment of the board of investment secretary, cooperative department secretary, municipal commissioner, directors-general of the Lyari and Malir development authorities and land utilisation department additional secretary in the committee for the verification of documents for building plan approval was not right as they were non-technical officials.

He further submitted that building plans were being approved in violation of the law and requested the SHC to set aside the notification with regard to the constitution of the committee comprising non-technical officials of the Sindh government and call the record of all the buildings plans approved by the committee.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Shafi Siddiqui, after the preliminary hearing of the petition, issued notices to the chief secretary, services secretary and others, and called their comments within four weeks. The high court directed advocate general Sindh to file comments with regard to technical qualification of the committee members.

Special judicial allowance

The SHC has directed the Sindh finance department to pay arrears of special judicial allowance to all the employees and officers of the high court and district subordinate courts in the province through monthly installments.

The direction came on a petition of Ali Raza and others against the non-payment of arrears of special judicial allowance to the employees and officers of the high court and district judiciary.

The high court was informed that all the stakeholders had agreed on payment of two-year judicial allowance arrears on a monthly basis to the employees of the SHC and subordinate judiciary within 24 months starting July 2020. It was also decided that funds for the abovementioned purpose shall be arranged partially from the savings of the high court and the district judiciary budget provision for the year 2020-21, and the remaining through funds to be provided by the finance department.

The finance and accounts director general and deputy secretary (legal) finance had filed separate undertakings on September 23, which were taken on record. According to them, the finance department had allocated a budget grant of Rs605,277,000 for the court during the current financial year 2020-21 and after the expected expenditure of Rs128,339,052 during the current year, an amount of Rs476,937,948 would still be available in the relevant head, which would be sufficient to satisfy the payment in respect of the judicial employees.

The finance department official submitted that a special judicial allowance for the subject period of two years was not reflected in the budget for the current financial year 2020-21 and the finance department would have to seek permission from the government for the allocation of this amount. He however did not dispute any of the figures mentioned in the undertaking submitted by the finance director general.

Regarding the permission of the government for the allocation of funds, the SHC observed that no such permission was required in view of the orders passed by the court and the government of Sindh was duty bound to comply with the said orders and the absence of approval from any could not be made the basis of non-compliance with an order passed by the court.

The SHC directed the finance department to pay the special judicial allowance to all the employees and officers of the high court and district judiciary for the months of July, August and September 2020 latest by September 30, 2020 and ensure the provision of the said allowance to them for the remaining twenty one months/installment with effect from October 2020 strictly on a monthly basis. The court directed the finance secretary to submit a compliance report by October 7.