KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday directed the culture secretary to float summaries about requisite funds to the finance department and said the approval would be made within two months to set up e-libraries in the province.

A single bench of the SHC headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar also asked the finance secretary to ensure that schedules of new expenditures (SNEs) of six libraries pending approval must be approved within 15 days and also sought a compliance report.

In the last hearing, the bench had issued certain directives to the provincial authorities including establishment of e-libraries in every district in the upcoming budget on a similar pattern as being done by Punjab.

At the outset of the hearing, the secretary of the culture, tourism, antiquities and archives department, Ghulam Akbar Leghari, along with the in charge director-libraries submitted a detailed report.

SHC rules the Covid-19 pandemic has made the need for e-education more viable

The report reflected that there were 27 public libraries out of which six libraries were functioning without SNEs since the same were pending for approval with the finance department.

The culture secretary informed the bench that there were budget issues regarding public libraries as no extra budget was available to shift the libraries from electricity to solar system and undertook that his department would establish libraries in every district headquarter.

The bench directed the secretary to float summaries through proper channel to the finance department and asked the finance secretary to approve the budget within two months for establishment of e-libraries and shifting of libraries from electricity to solar system, well-equipped with capacity of air conditioners and computers connected with uninterrupted Wi-Fi internet.

It also directed the culture department to also enhance the capacity of all libraries at divisional and district level.

The culture secretary submitted that on the directive of the bench, an amount of Rs20 million was allocated for enhancing the capacity of the Daudpota Library at Hyderabad, but the amount was frozen by the finance department due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The bench observed that the pandemic needed to make us conscious only but should not be an excuse to off-track us, adding that libraries were part of education, which even cannot be closed in war.

“Without prejudice to this, the present pandemic has made the need of e-library (e-education) more viable; therefore, Secretary Finance shall ensure that such amount is released forthwith without any delay. In case of failure he would face the legal ramifications. Such compliance report shall be submitted on next hearing,” it added.

The culture secretary submitted that there was an encyclopaedia with the title Sindhiana, but it contained many discrepancies and some publications were not up to the mark and required rectification.

He added that advertisements with regard to appointment of chairman of the Sindhi Language Authority were made and a three-member committee would recommend the name of a suitable candidate.

The bench directed that the committee must recommend the name to fill the post and the committee will also re-examine the inappropriate entries and point out discrepancies in Sindhiana and this task be completed in one year.

The bench expressed resentment over the absence of the vice chairman of technical education and managing director of the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority despite being summoned.

The court issued contempt notices against them for Aug 10.

The deputy secretary-finance sought time to submit a complete break-up of technical education budget allocation and releases in the last five years.

The bench also directed the district and sessions judges to ask the magistrates to visit the public libraries and ensure smooth working of such facilities and availability of competitive examination books and submit a report with regard to the requirements.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2020