Govt submits reply to petition against Sindh Ombudsman Amendment Act

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Karachi:    Government side here Thursday submitted written reply in Sindh High Court (SHC) to a petition filed by Pasban Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman Altaf Shakoor, requesting the court to declare unconstitutional the Establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Province of Sindh (Amendment) Act, 2020.

As per details, a bench of SHC comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mahzar and Justice Yousuf Ali Saeed herd the constitutional petition. The government lawyer submitted their written reply to the petition, in which the petitioner had requested the court to declare unconstitutional the Establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Province of Sindh (Amendment) Act, 2020.

As per the new law, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail has been deprived of one more authority as the power of appointing the chief provincial Ombudsman has been given to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

The petition had submitted that the Sindh Chief Minister had jeopardized and taken over the powers of the Sindh Governor for the appointment of the provincial Ombudsman “under the umbrella of the Sindh Assembly by malafidely misusing the majority of political seats and representation in the assembly”.

He submitted that the CM had snatched the powers of the Sindh Governor for appointment of the impartial person in the provincial Ombudsman office for check and balance, and eradication of corruption and smooth function of the government office in line of duty and to redress the grievance of the public who felt aggrieved by the act of the government and its offices.

He submitted that the theme and scheme of institution of Ombudsman was to eradicate the corruption and maladministration amongst the provincial government offices by an impartial person appointed by the Sindh Governor to discharge the duty.

However, he said, the Sindh assembly malafidely passed an amendment Act and the salient features of the amendments in control of the Ombudsman institution had been transferred from the Sindh Governor to the Sindh Chief Minister, including appointment of Ombudsman by the chief minister.

He said the amendment was contrary to the legal and conceptual basis of an independent institution keeping the maladministration of the executive in check, adding that if the executive appointed the head of an institution set up to provide administrative justice by keeping maladministration in check how could such an appointee be in a position not to acknowledge the favour.

He said the institution was working effectively under the Sindh Governor and it was “totally independent of the executive” but after the passage of the new law it would now be rendered “totally ineffective as the Ombudsman will be subservient to the CM who is himself facing NAB cases and enquiries for corruption and maladministration”.

He alleged that “the impugned amendment has been passed on purely malafide basis by the ruling-Pakistan People’s Party to control “the only viable institution which was serving as a watchdog on bad governance and maladministration of the provincial government departments”. He submitted that through the impugned amendment Act, all powers have been vested with the CM of the province by taking the power from the governor of the province who is representative and symbol of the federation as well as impartiality.

He maintained that the CM has delegated the power to himself to appoint the Provincial Ombudsman to check corruption in departments under his administration, which is against the principle of law, the constitution, principle of natural justice, general clauses act, and thus is illegal and unconstitutional”.

It was submitted that it is the golden principle of law that nobody can be judge of his own cause, and getting power to appoint ombudsman means that an accused has become a judge against allegations leveled to him.

He said the provincial legislative assembly had no lawful power and authority to pass the impugned Act without debate and with incomplete quorum and without fulfilling the lawful and constitutional formalities.

He submitted that 13 regional offices had been affected all over the province by the impugned law as the political and bureaucratic interference has been inducted and injected in the institution of the province to save the skin of corrupt officials of the different departments of Sindh government against the complaints and it tantamount to destroying the administration system and infrastructure of the whole of the province and darken the future of the people of the province which was already towards declination.

The petitioner requested the court to declare the Establishment of the Office of Ombudsman for the Province of Sindh (Amendment) Act, 2020 unconstitutional and of no legal effect and direct the respondents to produce the attendance, proceedings and debate in passing of this Act in the Sindh Assembly.

The court was requested to restrain the respondents, their servants, agents, subordinates and anybody else claiming through or under them not to implement the impugned Act, 2020 and also restrain them from proceeding further on the Act and to suspend the operation of the Act pending till the final decision of the court.

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