ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Friday rejected Pakistan People’s Party Senator Raza Rabbani request to form a full bench to hear the case pertaining to provincial authority in the 18th Amendment.

The Supreme Court has declared 18th Amendment as constitutional and correct and the matter in hand before the apex court is only the ownership of three major hospitals, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar observed this while hearing the case pertaining to dispute between federal and Sindh government over the ownership of three major hospitals in Karachi.

These hospitals include Jinnah Post Medical Centre (JPMC), National Institute of Cardiovascular Institutes (NICVD) and National Institute of Child Health (NICH).

The bench resumed the hearing on set of appeals moved by the Sindh government against the July 4, 2016 verdict of the Sindh High Court (SHC), wherein it was declared that these institutions fell within the federal legislative list which is exclusive domain of federal government.

The Sindh government claims that since the subject of health has been devolved to provinces after the 18th Amendment, the management of these hospitals should be run by provincial government.

The other members of the bench include Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

When the hearing commenced, Senator Rabbani appeared before the bench and contended that a day earlier the bench posed a different question adding that it would be appropriate that this matter be dealt with by full bench.

The bench rejected the request and Justice Ahsan observed that the court is not reviewing the entire 18th Amendment rather hearing the matter of devolution of hospitals on the basis of the 18th Amendment.

After the bench made it clear that it is not reviewing the entire 18th amendment, Rabbani continued his arguments informing that the 19th Amendment was passed to bring clarity after the 18th Amendment.

The Chief Justice questioned should the federal government not help if the provinces do not try to improve the health sector. He further asked should the provinces be given complete authority over the health sector.

In response, Rabbani submitted that the Constitution states that the health sector will be overlooked by the province. If provinces do not have authority over hospitals then the relevant article of the Constitution will be redundant. 

The Chief Justice remarked that the court has declared 18th Amendment as constitutional and correct, adding this is not a politico-legal issue.

The issue before us is not that of a small or big province, we should not create that discord and the court has to determine legal point, chief justice further observed.

He also cautioned Senator Rabbani not to create dispute between big and small provinces.

The Chief Justice told Rabbani: “You want us to leave the poor at the mercy of provincial governments. As per you, the federal government should make hospitals and hand them over to provincial governments. You also want that the federal government only issue grants and the provincial governments have all other roles.”

Rabbani said that even in the 1935 Constitution, the health sector had been given to provinces adding that if federal government interferes in the health sector then it will create disputes between the province and federation.

Justice Ahsan observed that the federal government will follow provincial regulations and that there will be no disputes.”

Rabbani, who was head of the Commission which worked on 18th amendment, argued before the bench that the state comprises federal, provincial and local governments adding that the federal government can establish hospitals in the provinces but cannot run them.

“If the federal government builds hospitals and runs them, then Article 137 will be redundant,” contended Rabbani.

The Chief Justice questioned how Article 137 will be redundant further cautioning Rabbani not to make such statements.

Article 137 of the Constitution is related to extent of executive authority of provinces.  The bench also observed that it will take up another similar nature of Sheikh Zayed Hospital Lahore matter to decide the case. The hearing of the case has been adjourned till January 7.