ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday outlined the Supreme Court’s agenda for 2018 and said the court would be focusing on human rights issues, particularly those relating to the people’s right to quality education and healthcare.

The chief justice explained the court’s agenda during the hearing of a suo motu case about quarrying and cutting of trees in the Margalla Hills area of the federal capital.

The court’s attention was drawn to the issue by a May 19, 2016 discussion on a television talk show in which the host had highlighted the quarrying of the Margalla hills by some influential people as well as by cement factories.

During the talk show, a report was also telecast that highlighted the quarrying work being carried out in a part of Abbottabad district for the last 35 years, which had permanently damaged the once green hills there.

A three-judge bench of the court comprising Chief Justice Nisar, Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan summoned Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s chief secretary and secretary of the province’s Minerals Development Department on Thursday with an observation that the court was receiving a number of complaints about the way mining concessions were awarded in the province.

The court also called for submission of a comprehensive report on the award of mining leases in the province during the last three years, and said that when the case would be taken up, the heads of the departments concerned should be present in the court to answer various questions.

Says court will verify contents of the reports submitted to it

Pointing towards the chief secretaries of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the chief justice said the burden “will be on them” if the court ever noticed irregularities in their respective provinces, adding that in the case about the historic site of Katas Raj the court had noted “vanishing mountains and degradation of the environment because of unchecked quarrying and blasting in the area”.

The three-judge bench also wondered about the inspection of the areas leased out to miners to check the violation of law, and regretted that the departments concerned were often found to be hand in glove with the violators as they often furnished reports to the court without physically inspecting anything.

Chief Justice Nisar said that things would not continue in the manner they were being done because the court would check whatever was claimed in the reports.

The court ordered the Environment Protection Agency to submit a comprehensive report on visits the agency had undertaken for checking environmental pollution in the country.

“The concerned departments come out of slumber only when the courts become active,” the chief justice said.

Meanwhile, a separate two-judge bench of the apex court headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed issued notice to Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf to apprise it by Monday of why the government was taking time to fill the post of prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which fell vacant on Nov 23, 2017.

The directions were issued by the court when during the hearing on a set of bail appeals it transpired that NAB was facing a number of difficulties because the post continued to be vacant for a long time.

During the proceedings, NAB special prosecutor Imran-ul-Haq informed the court that out of two accountability courts in Islamabad one was still without a judge whereas the tenure of the other accountability judge, Muhammad Bashir, would expire by the end of March.

The same accountability court is seized with a number of corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Safdar, son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2018