SC issues written order of coronavirus suo moto notice case

ISLAMABAD (APP): The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday directed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to submit report regarding development of COVID-19 activities in the country and availability of all necessary medical devices, medicines, etc necessary for the treatment of patients affected with COVID-19.

The court also directed the Secretary of Ministry of Industries & Production to ensure proper price mechanism of Oxygen gas and Oxygen cylinder,

The apex court directed to announce and notify price mechanism within a period of one week and concise statement in this regard be also filed within a period of two weeks.

The nine-page judgment authored by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed stated that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had filed its report by way of this application and a Notification showing that some exemptions had been granted from operation of the Rules for importing of medical devices as mentioned therein.

The CEO, DRAP informed the Court that despite issuance of the said Notification, the importers would have to obtain license to import medical device mentioned in the said Notification.

As regard the availability of Oxygen, it was stated that Pakistan Steel Mills Karachi had sufficient capacity of producing Oxygen to be used for patients needing the same.

The Additional Attorney General for Pakistan informed that the Government was working on such aspect of the matter and approximately, an amount of Rs.1 Billion was required to be expended to make operational the Oxygen Plant of the Pakistan Steel Mills.

He further informed that the Government was examining the feasibility of the said Plant and will shortly take steps to make it operational in order to ensure smooth supply of the Oxygen to hospitals and there should be no shortage, obstruction or impediment in the supply of Oxygen.

He also informed that the Government had already constituted a Committee of specialized people who were considering these aspects of the matter.

As there was spike of COVID-19 in the country, the CEO, DRAP stated that there was no shortage of any medical device or medicine used for treatment of COVID-19 patients and sufficient stock of the necessary medicines was available to meet the present demand of the hospitals and other medical institutions where treatment of COVID-19 patients was being carried out.

The CEO, DRAP further informed that Actemra injections were being imported from Japan and almost two weeks’ stock of such injections was available and before exhausting this stock, new supply of Actemra would arrive, so there would be no shortage of this injection too in Pakistan. Advocate General Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed that the price of Oxygen was not being regulated particularly in the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where exorbitant prices of Oxygen cylinders were being charged.

The CEO, DRAP stated that the very production of Oxygen and its supply was handled by the Ministry of Industries & Production and it was the Secretary of Ministry concerned who was required to regulate the prices of Oxygen.

The court termed the report filed by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) unsatisfactory and stated that the issue regarding Al-Hafeez Crystoplast (Pvt.) Ltd. was not clear and at the first place, from the papers filed with the report, it transpired that in purported importing of the equipment/machinery, the Embassy of Pakistan at Beijing had been involved and the court did not see any reason as to how Embassy of Pakistan at Beijing could be a party in importing the equipment/ machinery for a private company. The documents further showed that even the plane was chartered and in this regard NDMA and Embassy of Pakistan at Beijing were also involved, in that, the Aeroplane owner had been paid the charges in cash to the tune of Rs. 10.725 million and it was not mentioned that in what currency the said amount had been paid.

Further, the court noted that the payment of price of the equipment/machinery imported from China had also been paid in cash and the same had been acknowledged by some officials.

The terms of payment of purported Purchase Contract showed that 100% advance payment T/T or cash in Pakistan. It was not shown that who had paid and who had received the payment.

 Further the court noted that custom duties and taxes etc. has also been paid in cash. It appeared that such report of NDMA was vague, which needed to be further examined. The court directed the Chairman, NDMA to appear personally on the next date of hearing and inform the court about the status of the above transaction and a detailed report be filed in this regard before the next date of hearing. The Chairman, NDMA had stated that he had recently been appointed as Chairman and he intended to visit the quarantine centers and hospitals, including the quarantine centre Haji Camp Islamabad, and submit a report about the latest position regarding the steps taken by the NDMA in dealing with pandemic of COVID-19.

Pakistan International Airline Corporation (PIAC) had filed report showing action taken against the delinquent officials of the PIAC, including the list of pilots, who had been dismissed on account of holding fake academic documents and list of cases pending in Courts, where stay orders had been obtained. The Chairman, PIAC stated that he had approached the office of the Attorney General to assist PIAC in having all these cases, filed by the employees in different Courts, decided, particularly in which injunctive orders were operating and the same be vacated. The report filed was taken on record. The court asked the Chairman, PIAC to take necessary steps for removing surplus and non-required staff to ensure that the airline was brought to a level to make it a viable commercial airline.

The report filed by the Director General, Civil Aviation Authority stated that comprehensive details had been given regarding the employees’ misconducts and crimes while performing their duties in the Authority. The prosecution against such employees had already commenced and it was stated by the counsel that Challans had been filed in their respective Trial Courts. It was also stated that witnesses named in the Challans would be produced and the Authority would ensure that all these cases were decided by the respective Courts expeditiously. The court noted that normally the criminal cases were not seriously prosecuted by the Government departments; therefore, mostly the delinquent employees get acquitted for the reason that no effective evidence is brought on record by the department concerned.

The counsel for the Authority contended that they would vigorously pursue all these matters and would ensure production of best possible and quality evidence before the concerned Courts. He further gave details of the action taken by the Authority on departmental side against the officials, including the pilots, who had obtained fake licenses, and informed about the details of the cases in which injunctive orders had been passed. The court directed the DG CAA to approach the office of the AGP to ensure that the cases before the Courts, particularly where injunctive orders had been passed, should be properly pursued and dealt with to bring them at a logical conclusion.

The report filed by the Deputy Military Estates Officers, Headquarter Military Lands and Cantonment, Ministry of Defence stated that the disinfection in the Cantonment areas was being conducted on regular basis, fines were being imposed on violation of COVID-19 SOPs, i.e., masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soaps, and payment of salaries and other benefits to the sanitary staff, the medical and paramedical staff were being regularly made. As per the report, all essential PPEs had been provided to the doctors and paramedic staff of the hospitals and dispensaries under the ML & C Department.

The Additional Advocate General Punjab stated that latest report had been prepared but could not be filed, therefore, requests for time to file the same.

The court termed the report filed by the Sindh government unsatisfactory. Huge amount had been shown to have been allocated for education, health, water supply and sanitation, infrastructure development but the bench noted that these funds apparently were not applied in these sectors. The court also noted that the Government of Sindh had spent an enormous and staggering amount of US $2600 Million on Sindh Education Sector Reforms Project (SERP-II) Project during the period 2013-2017. Despite spending such huge amount in the education sector in the province of Sindh, apparently, nothing had changed in the standards of education in the Province, as the literacy rate in the Province continues to be at dismal state.

The court also noted that the Advocate General Sindh had not appeared personally in such an important case relating to the Government of Sindh. Additional Advocate General was not aware of the reason for non-appearance of the Advocate General. The court asked the Advocate General to submit a written reply within a period of 15 days.

The report filed by the Secretary Health Department, Secretary Home Department & Secretary Relief and Rehabilitation Department, Peshawar stated that all efforts were being made by the provincial government for availability of beds, medical devices and medicines. As per report, there was no shortage of any of the medical equipment and medicines required for the treatment of COVID-19  patients.

Advocate General informed that COVID-19 Pandemic situation had risen up to 40% positive rate of total test conducted, but now the situation was under control as the COVID-19 positive rate had dropped considerably. The court directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to remain attentive and vigilant to the issue.

Advocate General Balochistan stated that report had been prepared but it was not in detail, therefore, sometime was requested to submit a detailed report. The court directed him to submit report before the next date of hearing.

The next hearing of the case would be held after one month.