KARACHI: The provincial authorities on Monday informed the Sindh High Court that under extraordinary circumstances steps were taken to mitigate the financial crisis and protect the sustenance of workers and labourers during the ongoing lockdown.

The home and labour departments filed comments in around 15 petitions filed by different industrialists against the provincial government for barring them from laying off their workers and employees.

The provincial authorities submitted that the manufacturing units, which remained closed, were under consideration for tax relaxations, etc.

When the petitions of the industrialists as well as a petition against laying off of workers by private establishments came up for hearing before a two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, both the provincial home and labour departments filed comments.

They submitted that Covid-19 was a global pandemic and the governments around the world had taken stringent efforts to contain the spread and the Sindh government in consultation with health experts also decided to enforce the lockdown.

The provincial government felt the responsibility to mitigate the financial crisis arising thereof and decided to protect the sustenance of lower socio-economical strata of the society like labourers and workers and restrictions were imposed on all the employing entities to refrain them from laying off their workers during the lockdown and to ensure provision of their salaries/wages in full, they maintained.

The provincial authorities further submitted that under the extraordinary circumstances, it was our national duty and in accordance with the teachings of Islam to extend support to the needy and poor.

The bench took the comments on record and directed the counsel for petitioners to file rejoinder, if any, before the next hearing.

The additional advocate general said that the same comments would be adopted by the provincial authorities in all connected petitions.

However, a lawyer for the petitioner, who moved the SHC against laying off of workers and employees by the private establishments during the ongoing lockdown in violation of the orders issued by the provincial government, pointed out that he had also made the employer federation of Pakistan as respondent.

The bench directed the office to issue notice to the respondent for May 6.

The industrialists submitted that in order to prevent spread of any epidemic disease, the government was empowered to take any remedial step under the Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act, including lockdown, social distancing or barring religious congregations, but it had no power to restrain the petitioner from exercising rights to lay off, retrench, close or any other right available under the Sindh Terms of Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 2016.

Life term to two kidnappers maintained

Another division bench of the SHC on Monday upheld the life imprisonment to two men in a kidnapping for ransom case.

An antiterrorism court had sentenced Imran Ahsan alias Sunny and Mohammad Zubair to life term in 2015 and 2018 for abducting Khurram Javed in October 2008 and releasing him after collecting a ransom of Rs1 million.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2020

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