KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the provincial health authorities to constitute a commission under the Sindh HIV and AIDS Control Treatment and Protection Act, 2013 and sought a compliance report by Sept 17.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar was hearing a petition seeking implementation of laws to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing medical facilities, including the screening of the disease in the province.

In the last hearing, the bench had directed the health authorities to file comments and data of patients after the lawyer for petitioners submitted that despite the promulgation of the law in 2013, a commission had not been made so far to implement the act.

On Tuesday, Health Secretary Saeed Awan filed a report, through the additional secretary health, stating that the commission could not be constituted since two, out of 15 members, had refused to join the body.

However, the official undertook that the two members would be replaced with new members within two weeks and the commission would be notified.

Over 12,000 patients had been registered for HIV treatment in Sindh till June 30

Adjourning the matter till Sept 17, the court directed him to submit the notification about the constitution of the commission on the next date of hearing.

The health department in its reply stated that the commission for Sindh HIV/AIDS control treatment and protection was notified on Jan 18, 2018, but two of its notified members — Prof Dr Rafiq Khanani and Dr Mohammad Zakria Kandhro — had shown their inability to join it due to their own reasons.

Therefore, the department was revising the notification after getting approval from the competent authority, it added.

It further said that 12,071 patients were registered for treatment in HIV treatment centres in Sindh as on June 30 this year.

Of them, 5,544 adults and 311 children were registered as patients at the Civil Hospital Karachi; 329 at the Lyari General Hospital; 71 at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre; 28 at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital; 1,446 at the Indus Hospital; 138 adults and 155 children at the Aga Khan Hospital; 659 at the Liaquat University of Health Sciences Hyderabad; 2,674 adults and 596 children at the Chandka Medical College Hospital Larkana; and 160 patients of HIV were registered at the Ghulam Mohammad Mahar Medical College Hospital in Sukkur.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, doctors and right activists had filed the petition for the provision of healthcare and medical facilities to the citizens of the province and submitted that hundreds of people living in remote areas were not being provided health facilities though many citizens, including children, were found infected with HIV in Larkana district.

They said that the Sindh HIV and AIDS Control Treatment and Protection Act, 2013 was enacted by the provincial assembly, but despite the passage of around six years it was not being implemented in letter and spirit since the commission under such law had not been constituted.

They asked the court to direct the government to provide medical treatment to patients and take measures to prevent the spread of HIV and also sought a joint inquiry into the outbreak of HIV/AIDS epidemic in Larkana.

Death sentence set aside

Another division bench of the SHC on Tuesday set aside the death sentence and life imprisonment handed down to five men by an antiterrorism court in a sectarian killing case.

An antiterrorism court had sentenced Syed Furqan, Syed Buturab Ali and Faisal Mehmood to death and life imprisonment to Azhar Hussain and Riffat Hussain Jaffri in April last year for killing Mohammad Faisal Umer and wounding his friend Mohammad Saad, both members of the Tablighi Jamaat, in February 2014 near the Gharibabad underpass.

The convicts had challenged the capital punishment before the SHC and after hearing both sides and examining the record and proceedings of the case, a two-judge appellant bench of SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha allowed the appeals and set aside the verdict of the trial court.

The bench in its order observed that the identification parade conducted by a judicial magistrate, in which a witness had identified the appellants, was suffering from irregularities and illegalities and cannot be safely relied upon, adding that the prosecution had not produced the same witness before the trial court for evidence.

The court also pointed out many irregularities in the memo of identification parade and also turned down a plea of deputy prosecutor general to remand the case back to the trial court to record the evidence of two witnesses.

Earlier, advocates Mohammad Farooq and Shah Imroz appearing on behalf of the appellants argued that there was no evidence available on record against their clients as the crime was not witnessed and the complainant/injured also deposed that he could not identify the accused and maintained that the identification parade was defective.

Prosecutor Ali Haider argued that a witness had rightly picked out the accused during an identification parade and other witnesses supported the same, adding that the accused confessed before a joint investigation team. He also requested the court to remand the case back to the ATC to record the evidence of two prosecution witnesses.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2019

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