KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday directed the chief secretary to place some proposals before the provincial cabinet in its next meeting for setting up old-age homes at the district level to accommodate indigent senior citizens.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that under the law, it was the responsibility of the government to establish and maintain such residential facilities at accessible places.
When a petition seeking proper enforcement of the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act, 2014 came up for hearing on Wednesday, Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah appeared before the bench.
The bench said that the purpose of calling the chief secretary was to assist it as on the last hearing, the secretary of the social welfare department had submitted in court that there was a possibility of signing a memorandum of understanding with the National Database and Registration Authority for registration and processing Azadi Cards of senior citizens but it had not been done so far while the draft rules were also at the vetting and approval stage.
The chief secretary assured the bench that the department would draft the MoU and it would be placed before the senior citizens council for approval and once it approved and terms and conditions were negotiated the same would be executed with Nadra.
CS says draft rules of Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act will be placed before cabinet for approval
He said the entire process would be completed in a month time.
He further undertook that the draft rules prepared pursuant to Section 19 of the Act would be placed in the next cabinet meeting for approval and thereafter, the rules would also be notified.
The chief secretary also apprised the bench that while discussing the terms and conditions for issuing Azadi Cards Nadra officials said there was an estimated cost of Rs250 per card.
At this, the bench quoted Section 12 of the act wherein a senior citizens welfare fund was to be established and asked the CS to explore the possibility so that the fee of the senior citizens card might be paid by the department from the fund to accommodate those who might not afford the fee.
“According to Section 8 of the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act, 2014, it is the responsibility of the Government to establish and maintain such number of old age homes at accessible places at least one in each district to accommodate indigent senior citizens in such homes,” the bench added.
When the bench asked the chief secretary how many old-age homes had been established, he replied that one was under-construction in Korangi. The bench directed him to make some proposals/schemes and place them before the Sindh cabinet in its next meeting for the compliance of Section 8 of the Act.
The bench also pointed out various other benefits for senior citizens provided under the law and said that in order to effectively implement these benefits some proactive approach was required.
The chief secretary assured the bench that once the rules were framed, the implementation of these provisions would be easier for the council and the government.
The bench also suggested that the chief secretary and social welfare secretary would take care of any deficiency in the draft rules so that necessary condition might be incorporated in the rules to cater to the basic need and requirement of Section 5.
The Section 5 says it is the responsibility of the senior citizens council to take measures and perform the functions as may be necessary for the welfare of the senior citizens and for improving their well-being.
It directed the chief secretary to submit a progress report through the office of the advocate general till Aug 10 and ordered the social welfare secretary to be in attendance on the next hearing.
Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2021