KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday issued notices to the federal and provincial authorities on a petition seeking a probe into the deaths of people due to a suspected leakage of gas in Keamari.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed also issued notices to the federal and provincial law officer to file comments on behalf of the respondents till March 11.

A lawyer, Abdul Jalil Khan Marwat, had filed a petition seeking directives for the relevant authorities to investigate the incident, take remedial measures and give compensation to the families of those that had died in the incident.

The petitioner impleaded the defence secretary, the secretary and minister of maritime affairs, the chairman of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT), the provincial home secretary, the inspector general of police, Sindh and others as respondents.

He submitted that on Feb 16 his driver Safdar informed him that the dangerous coronavirus had affected the whole Keamari area and some people had died and several others affected were rushed to the Dr Ziauddin Hospital, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and the Civil Hospital.

The SHC is informed that 15,000 public buses will be needed in Karachi even after revival of KCR

He stated that his driver also requested him to arrange for temporary residences for his family members because of threats of illness to him and his family members.

The petitioner said later he came to know that the people got affected because of a dangerous cargo/gas which was operated on berth number 17 inside the KPT touching the Bhutta Village, the Railway Crossing, the Ghas Bandar and Jackson Bazaar areas of Keamari.

He further submitted that he received some videos on social media, showing people wearing masks while others were seen mourning the deaths of their relatives.

He said that Sindh Minister Saeed Ghani also confirmed to the media the death of six persons reportedly because of leakage of some poisonous gas and denied the statement of the KPT chairman who had maintained that no gas leakage took place within the boundary walls of the port.

He further submitted that the Sindh chief minister had also ordered the Karachi commissioner and hospitals for availability of doctors on duty and police authorities to help the people in the area.

He said that the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) had conducted operations in the Customs House Karachi and cleared the premises on Feb 17 as per the statement of the KPT chairman.

He argued that the said incidents had exposed the inefficiency and mismanagement on part of the respondents and added that the court had extraordinary constitutional jurisdiction to try and entertain his petition and call upon the respondents to submit their replies.

He requested the court to direct the respondents to investigate and inquire into the incident on merit.

He said that police officials had recorded the statements of the affected persons, thus he sought a direction for the home secretary and the IGP to submit a report of their investigation into the incident.

15,000 buses needed in Karachi

The same bench, meanwhile, issued notices to the federal and provincial authorities on a petition seeking better transportation facilities for commuters in the metropolis. The bench asked the deputy attorney general and the advocate general to file comments on behalf of the federal and provincial authorities till the next date.

The petition was filed by a public interest litigant, who submitted that a large number of commuters faced difficulties due to the absence of public transport in the city.

He further submitted that the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) would not sufficiently cater to the needs of the residents and around 15,000 public buses were required to be plied across the metropolis.

He stated that the Sindh government was not paying heed to the public transportation facilities and the citizens had been left at the mercy of those operating rickshaws and charging high fares from commuters.

Reply sought on LG polls

The same bench also directed a provincial law officer to submit a reply on behalf of the Sindh government on a petition seeking local government elections in the province till March 10.

The petitioner, a public interest litigant, had approached the SHC, submitting that Article 140-A of the Constitution made it incumbent on the authorities to conduct local government elections in provinces.

He further submitted that the local governments in Sindh had completed their four-year term in different cities and district, including Karachi, but the provincial government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) were not taking steps to hold the LG elections despite completion of their tenure.

The petitioner said the notifications to announce the elected representatives of the current local bodies were issued by the ECP on Dec 3, 2015, Dec 26, 2015 and Jan 1, 2016 according to which the entire local bodies had completed their tenure and the elected representatives were now “illegally” holding their offices.

He alleged that the provincial government was delaying the LG polls by not issuing a letter in this regard to the ECP and asked the court to direct the ECP to hold polls as per its mandate under the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020