SC shoots down govt’s bid to save SSWMB

KARACHI: Strengthening the Karachi mayor’s demand for the transfer of solid waste management powers to the municipal bodies, the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed on Saturday the Sindh government’s application seeking review of the apex court’s earlier order regarding the status of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB).

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, a three-judge bench was hearing a case relating to non-supply of clean drinking water and worsening sanitation conditions in Sindh at the SC’s Karachi Registry.

Also comprising justices Gulzar Ahmed and Faisal Arab, the bench observed that the plea had become infructuous and therefore dismissed the same.

The Sindh government had filed a review application, asking the apex court to review its observations made in its March 16 order regarding the SSWMB.

The government had argued that the apex court’s bench had observed that the “non-functional board [SSWMB] has never performed its duties and should be dissolved to local bodies as provided under the rules of business.”

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It had argued that the SSWMB was lawfully established under the provisions of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board Act, 2014. Therefore, the same cannot be dissolved, it insisted.

The government argued that the apex court had made its observations, but no specific order was passed for dissolving the SSWMB. The Sindh government had sought review of the apex court’s observations on the basis of which Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar had moved the Sindh High Court (SHC) to order dissolution of the board.

Akhtar had contended that despite the SC’s above-mentioned observations, the relevant provincial authorities had not taken any steps to transfer the functions of the board to the elected local bodies.

Akhtar had pleaded to the Sindh High Court to direct the relevant authorities to transfer all the assets falling under the umbrella of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board Act, 2014, to the local government institutions.

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Officers’ appointments

The bench meanwhile ordered that in the future, transfers and postings of officers in the relevant departments will be subject to order of the SC-appointed judicial commission.

The order came on a report filed by the commission’s registrar, Ghulam Mustafa Channa, containing observations by its new head, Justice (retd) Amir Hani Muslim, about different departments’ officers.

The petitioner, Shahab Usto, informed the court that conditions at the water filtration and sewage treatment plants had worsened.

For example, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board officials had uninstalled old water pumps at the treatment plant I to install new ones, but nothing had been done so far.

He said the commission, in its report, had recommended the SC order the transfer of ineligible and incompetent officers. Justice Nisar remarked that clean drinking water was an essential commodity, therefore everyone should collectively work to supply it to the people. The top judge said he will also send a bottle of mineral water to the laboratory for quality testing as apparently it also seemed unfit for human consumption.

Justice Ahmed remarked that apparently none of the functionaries seemed willing to work to improve the situation in Karachi and questioned why Karachiites had been exposed to problems. He remarked that everyone was doing politics and lacked the will to serve the masses.

SSWMB land to be cleared of encroachments

The judge went on to remark that the local government department had failed to deliver. The bench issued notices to the provincial chief secretary and others on reply filed by Akhtar, who had made recommendations to resolve water and sanitation issues in Karachi.

It sought a report from the chief secretary regarding contracts for installation of 1,900 reverse osmosis plants in the province allegedly awarded to Pak Oasis, a company reportedly run by the son of an ambassador.

It also directed the chief secretary to inquire into allegations made by Sukkur Mayor Arsalan Islam Shaikh regarding illegal constructions on the land allocated for installation of a treatment plant of the Sindh Small Industries in Sukkur.

The bench put off hearing on the matter relating to encroachment over 35,000 amenity plots in Karachi. The case was adjourned till February 3.

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