SC summons Sindh chief secretary over water cess law

Published April 15, 2021
A three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial took up a suo motu case relating to sale of bottled water extracted from underground sources without paying any charge. — Photo courtesy SC website/File
A three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial took up a suo motu case relating to sale of bottled water extracted from underground sources without paying any charge. — Photo courtesy SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday summoned the Sindh chief secretary over slackness on part of the provincial government in enacting a law for conservation of the precious water resource, installation of flow meters at different beverage factories and revenue collection for using groundwater.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial took up a suo motu case relating to sale of bottled water extracted from underground sources without paying any charge and bottled water’s quality and fitness for human consumption as well as a set of review petitions against the order of imposition of water cess.

The bench expressed displeasure over non-compliance with the court’s directive for enacting the law to empower the provincial governments to collect cess for extracting underground water.

Case relates to sale of bottled water extracted from underground sources without paying any charge

The Supreme Court had last year issued the directive to the provincial governments in this regard. While the governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have already got the relevant act passed from their respective assemblies and a draft law is ready to be introduced before the Balochistan Assembly, there is no headway in Sindh for such legislation.

Justice Maqbool Baqir wondered why the Sindh government did not bother to enact the law despite the directive issued by the apex court a year ago.

Justice Bandial regretted that it showed that the Sindh government did not take the apex court’s directive seriously.

Subsequently, the court summoned the Sindh chief secretary for April 29 and warned of stern action if the provincial government did not give a plausible reason for not implementing the directive.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan also inquired about progress on the legislation from other provinces.

Additional advocate general for Punjab informed the court that the provincial assembly had enacted the law for use of groundwater in 2019.

The counsel for the KP government said the provincial government had adopted the law of the Punjab government.

The additional advocate general for Balochistan informed the court that a draft law was ready and being tabled in the provincial assembly.

The court sought a progress report from the Balochistan government and directed the three other provinces to submit detailed reports on the water cess legislation.

The hearing on the matter was adjourned till April 29.

It may be mentioned that last year also the apex court had expressed displeasure over the Sindh government’s slackness on the matter.

The court had made it clear that till the installation of flow meters throughout the country, the effort to collect the requisite charges from the commercial industrial concerns for use of groundwater would be on the basis of sales tax.

Once the meters are installed, the court will consider applying the volume of water being consumed as the basis to collect the revenue.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2021

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