KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has expressed resentment with the provincial authorities for not properly implementing a law for welfare of senior citizens and directed them to notify rules within 45 days and establish old-age homes and set up a welfare fund.
The SHC also directed a council, notified under the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act, 2014 and headed by the social welfare minister, to move a summary for allocation of requisite funds to set up the senior citizens welfare fund within 15 days, constitute a complaint redressal committee and issue Azadi Cards to senior citizens for providing essential services and benefits.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that the provisions of law were beneficial and meaningful, but it was also a ground reality that the legislation was made in 2014 and notified in 2016 and despite the lapse of a considerable period, its proper implementation was still in limbo as only a council had been constituted with members and chairperson and they were not taking any swift action.
The bench directed the chief secretary, social welfare secretary and chairperson of the council to implement the law in letter and spirit and sought a progress report in two months.
The Dar ul Sukun and others moved the SHC to entreat directions against respondents/provincial authorities for the effective enforcement and implementation of the act.
The additional advocate general (AAG) and the officials of the social welfare department submitted that the government was seriously making all possible efforts for implementation of law and undertook that within a short period all benefits would be extended to senior citizens.
The bench observed that it appreciated the government for showing concerns which necessitated legislation in order to alleviate the sufferings of senior citizens, but the court could not hold off observing that the mere establishment of a council or making legislation was not enough without its proper enforcement and implementation.
The officials further submitted that they were establishing an 80-bed shelter home in New Karachi and Rs75 million had been approved. The project would be completed within three months.
However, the bench stated that only one shelter home was not sufficient to cater to the dire need; rather at least one should be established in each district to accommodate senior citizens.
It added that senior citizens were a very sensitive segment of society which required utmost care and attention and at times children, after reaching adulthood, used to avoid aged parents and in worst situation they were left at the mercy of shelter homes.
The bench asked the council to move a summary within 15 days and it should be placed before the cabinet in the next meeting for consideration and approval.
It also directed the council to arrange different workshops for awareness of the senior citizens about the law.
When the bench asked officials of the social welfare department about issuance of Azadi Cards as provided in the law, they contended that the National Database and Registration Authority had rejected a request for providing the data of senior citizens.
The bench observed that apparently there was no logic to reject such a request and directed the chief secretary to convene a meeting within 15 days with the Nadra director general to resolve the issue.