ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Monday expressed disappointment with the central and provincial governments over their failure to devise a mechanism for the conservation and purification of underground water and impose tax on its extraction, in line with a previous decision of the apex court.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nasir, was hearing a case pertaining to conservation, purification and taxation on extraction of underground water by bottled water companies.

Last week, the apex court had imposed a levy on companies selling mineral water and beverages at a rate of Re1 for every litre of surface water extracted by them. The revenue so collected will go to the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams fund. Authored by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, the judgement also required the provincial governments as well as the Islamabad Capital Territory administration to set up separate and distinct accounts to receive the amounts collected under the water charges. The amounts will then be deposited in the SC-created dam fund.

Hearing a suo motu case regarding ground water exploitation by mineral water companies at the apex court, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said mineral water companies were using ground water, but the government didn’t move to fix them.

Justice Nisar said water would be as scarce in near future as it won’t be available on even gold rates. He also called upon industrialists to adopt mechanism for recycling used water.

Dr Abdul Rahim, the secretary of the Law and Justice Commission — established for the systematic development and reform of laws — informed the top judge that neither its recommendations on the issue were heeded upon, nor an awareness campaign was launched.

The representative of the Punjab government, Owais Ahmed, informed the bench that the provincial government had approved 31 recommendations out of 38. He said the government has formed a task force on water reservoirs, purification and taxation to deal with the issue.

Chief Justice Nisar reprimanded the representative, saying that the Supreme Court-mandated Water Commission did a lot of work, “the government(s) are provided with everything but they don’t want to do anything.”

“The Punjab government lacks both the will and the capability,” the chief justice remarked. “It seems that you people have decided to kill people of thirst (while) bureaucratic tapes appear in each and every matter. It seems that all the papers will be left in the record room of the court.”

“We have said time and again to take measures on a war-footing basis to resolve the issue,” he added.

The law and justice commission secretary pleaded the court to issue an order in this regard, to which Justice Nisar replied: “The court will continue to issue orders but the government has become insensitive. People’s lives are associated with water. If the government does nothing, it will be criminal negligence.”

Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the price of water being used by sectors other than bottled water should also be fixed. The bench observed that the Punjab government had devised a good plan as per the apex court’s directions but only on paper. “No political will is seen,” Justice Ahsan remarked.

The apex court declared that the reply submitted by the Punjab government was an attempt to eyewash the judiciary and ordered the federal and provincial governments to submit a fresh response within 15 days.

Meanwhile, the commission’s secretary said that the ICT administration also lacks a mechanism. He informed the court that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) charges a Rs100 water fee from each and every household, no matter how big or small it is. The top judge expressed his displeasure over the situation and reprimanded the authority.

SC disposes off APS attack case

The Supreme Court Monday disposed off the horrendous Army Public School attack case. A-three member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar heard the briefing pertaining to the progress made by the judicial commission probing the case.

During the hearing, Advocate General Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed the court that 147 testimonies been recorded so far whereas 109 are still pending. “We cannot furnish the report until 256 testimonies are not complete.”

Upon hearing this, the chief justice ordered to submit the aforementioned report in the court when it iss complete and disposed off the case.

It is pertinent to note that CJP Nisar took a suo motu notice of the APS carnage after parents of some martyred students including mothers approached him when he was hearing other cases at the SC Peshawar registry.

Earlier this month, defence ministry officials recorded their statements before a judicial commission constituted to probe the attack. According to Imranullah Khan, a member of the commission, more statements will be recorded in connection to the terrorist attack that claimed lives of more than 140 people.

FIA unearths properties of 96 more Pakistanis in UAE

The Supreme Court Monday was informed that properties of 96 more Pakistanis had been traced out in United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was informed to a three judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in a suo motu case pertaining to foreign properties owned by Pakistani nationals.

Director General FIA, Basheer Memon, submitting report in the apex court, said that 1,211 Pakistani citizens own 2,154 properties in the UAE and about 345 people have been served notices.

He said that 61 people remain unidentified, five are deceased, and 10 are uncooperative, while one is absconder.

In all, 413 people took advantage of the tax amnesty scheme that ended in August last year, whereas 167 people declared their properties to the FBR, he added.

The DG said that 79 people declared their properties in tax returns, while 97 individuals disowned their properties in the UAE. Meanwhile, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) official informed that Rs 270.25 million had been recovered during the last month and Rs17 million would be recovered during the current month. He said that about 125 individuals had failed to appear before the investigation team.

To which Justice Nisar warned to seize their properties. The chief justice also asked for an estimated amount which will be recovered, to which the FBR official said the Board expects to recover around Rs1 billion.

Displeased by the progress so far, the chief justice ordered FBR to submit its progress report within a month about recovery of assets and amounts illegally accumulated abroad by Pakistani citizens.