KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed chief executive officer (CEO) of Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) and administrator of Defence Housing Authority (DHA) to file counter affidavits to an application seeking contempt proceedings against them for not submitting to the court details about works regarding storm-water drainage.
The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Shafi Siddiqui asked the CEO of CBC and administrator DHA to ensure that the affidavits must be submitted within 10 days.
Counsel for petitioners moved a contempt application against the respondents for not complying with an earlier court order and the bench said that for the time being, this application be treated against the CBC and the DHA only and lawyers for both the respondents waived notice on behalf of alleged contemnors.
The bench also issued notices to the National Disaster Management Authority and the Provincial National Disaster Management Authority, the recently added respondents, to appear in court in next hearing on the main petition about flooding during last year’s rains.
Civic bodies have failed to file details about works regarding storm-water drainage in court
Around 60 residents of Clifton and DHA had petitioned the SHC last year after torrential rains and sought formation of a committee to supervise sanitation projects and forensic audit of CBC and DHA accounts after the auditor general’s report found irregularities.
The petitioners’ counsel filed an application seeking contempt proceedings against all four respondents and contended that they had wilfully violated the May 24 order in which the SHC had directed them to file complete details about the assignment of work regarding storm-water drainage in the subject area along with the names of experts and consultants within 10 days but the lawyers had argued that they were unable to comply with the order.
During initial hearing of the petition in September last year, the bench had expressed surprise over cancelation of tenders for cleaning of storm-water drains by the CBC before monsoon season and issuing the same after monsoon and said that how the issuance of tender notices could be justified at the end of monsoon season.
The bench had said that the petitioners’ counsel also produced audit reports of auditor general of Pakistan in respect of defence services which showed serious irregularities and lack of transparency in bidding process of different issues, which resulted in collusive practice each year to obtain conservancy work.
The 2018-19 audit report disclosed that the contract works were awarded to different contractors without advertisement which was mandatory under the relevant law, the bench had noted.
The petitioners had argued that the authorities concerned had completely failed to handle the situation during and after rains and perform their statutory duties. They contended the CBC had issued tender notice for desilting of drains in April, however, the lowest bid was rejected and no reason was given for its cancellation and another tender was set to open on Sept 15.
The petitioners cautioned that there was an alarming situation in the entire city as no official came forward to rescue citizens. The petitioners and their sympathisers were deprived of their right to assemble when an FIR was lodged against them for staging a peaceful demonstration outside the CBC office on Aug 31, 2020, they said.
Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2021