KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has directed a provincial law officer to come up with clear instructions on May 4 regarding the status of a draft of the Sindh Covid-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance.

A petition was filed in the SHC against laying off of workers and employees by private establishments during the ongoing lockdown in violation of orders issued by the provincial government.

The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that the additional advocate general of Sindh Jawad Dero had also filed a similar draft in some other cases and he was of the view that the Sindh government might promulgate the ordinance.

Therefore, the additional advocate general will come up with some definite instructions on the next date of hearing, it added.

Sets aside life term of two men in kidnapping and murder case

The bench further noted that some entrepreneurs and employers had challenged the notifications issued by the provincial government to safeguard the interests of workers and barring employers from terminating employees during the lockdown, whereas the present petitioners were for the implementation of these Sindh government directions.

Hence, the bench said that this petition also be fixed for May 4 with 15 other petitions with contrary prayers.

The petitioners through their counsel moved the SHC and made reliance on a letter issued on April 8 by the provincial secretary for labour and human resources department to the employers’ federation of Pakistan in which it was reminded that the home department had already issued order on April 23 imposing the restriction that no worker should be laid off and their salaries/ remunerations be paid by the respective employers during the lockdown.

The counsel argued that despite directives issued by the provincial government in the larger interest of workers employed in Sindh in different private establishments and institutions, workers were being dismissed and laid off during the lockdown.

The bench pointed out that the petitioners had also made various other prayer clauses which were not relevant to the issue and could not be mixed with this specific plea. However, after arguing at some length, the lawyer for the petitioners submitted that he would confine the petition only to the aspect of laying off workers by employers during the pandemic.

The lawyer also pointed out to the draft, the Sindh Covid-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance, 2020, and argued that the proposed ordinance was in the pipeline, and had not been promulgated yet. However, the additional advocate general sought time to file comments.

On April 17, the same bench had issued notices to the provincial authorities on a set of petitions challenging the notifications to impose restrictions on industrial units during the lockdown in the province.

The petitioners claimed that both notifications were beyond the scope of the respective laws and also sought restraining order for the provincial authorities from issuing a further notification under the Sindh Payment of Wages Act, 2015.

Conviction set aside

Another division bench of the SHC on Monday set aside the life term of two men handed down by the trial court in a kidnapping and murder case.

An antiterrorism court had handed down life imprisonment to Suleman Shah and Naveed Khan in August 2012 for abducting factory owner Khawaja Mohammad Naeem for ransom in 2009 in Gulbahar and killing him over non-payment of ransom.

The convicts through their lawyers challenged their conviction before the SHC and after hearing both sides and examining the record and proceedings of the case, a two-judge appellate bench of the SHC headed by Justice K.K. Agha allowed the appeals and set aside the trial court verdict.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2020