• Asks provincial govt to form an oversight committee to supervise building authority’s affairs

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday observed that the director general of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) could not act as an authority in the absence of an oversight committee and ordered the provincial government to notify the committee to supervise the total functioning of the SBCA, including its director general.

The two-judge bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar deplored that the local government department had failed to comply with a mandatory provision of law regarding formation of an oversee committee and the whole burden shifted upon courts to examine illegalities allowed by officials of the SBCA with regard to construction of buildings.

At the outset of the hearing, the SBCA DG filed some documents, including a notification, about the appointment of the DG in compliance with the previous court order.

The bench noted that the DG was notified to act as an authority for the whole province while under the law the DG could not be appointed to act as a ‘body cooperate’, council, department, functionary or an organisation in his individual capacity.

While referring to Section 4 (authority) of Sindh Building Control Ordinance (SBCO), 1979, it also observed that if the language of the statute was clear, the only duty of court was to give effect to it and the court had no business to look into the consequences of such interpretation.

“The ordinary definition of the words ‘body cooperate’ is a cooperation consisting a body of persons legally authorised to act as one person while being distinct from that person. But it cannot consist of an individual,” it added.

The bench further noted that prima facie, the notification in question was issued in flagrant violation and derogation of Section 4 of the SBCO.

“Thus, the government Sindh shall issue notification within the scope of Section 4 of the ordinance 1979, with the consultation of the law department within a period of one month,” the bench in its order said.

A notification, issued in August 2020, was placed before the court by the LG department about formation of the oversee committee headed by the secretary local government department to supervise all affairs of the SBCA.

However, a provincial law officer contended that the oversee committee was abolished through a notification issued in December 2022.

Thereafter, the bench said the oversight committee as provided under Section 4-B of SBCO, was not functioning while another notification issued in December 2022 reflected that a sub-committee was constituted by the provincial cabinet regarding amendments to Section 4-B by replacing the oversee committee with the government body.

It noted that the LG department had failed to comply with the relevant provision of law and ordered to notify the oversee committee by joining all stakeholders as per law in 30 days.

The SBCA DG also informed the court that around 300 posts were vacant and as per rules, the provincial government was required to make such recruitments.

“Needless to mention that the government of Sindh has approved a policy to recruit officials from BS-5 to BS-15 through third party; hence that method shall be adopted by the SBCA. Accordingly, the local government department shall amend respective rules in view of the amended rules I [of] the Civil Servant Act and for other institutions and corporate bodies,” the bench in it order concluded.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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