LAHORE - The top court Saturday accepted an application for hearing a petition regarding increase in the deaths of the labourers working in mines.

Taking cognizance of deaths of the mine workers, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar invoked suo motu jurisdiction and directed the relevant authorities to submit their replies on the petition.

According to the petitioner, Usama Khawar advocate, the relevant authorities include chief inspectors mines, director general mines and minerals, commissioners mines, labour welfare and mines secretary.

The bench has also issued notices to attorney general for Pakistan and advocate generals of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

During the course of hearing, Advocate Zafar Iqbal Kalanuri appeared before the bench and pleaded the case.

It was requested by the petitioner to order the constitution of a judicial commission to probe the fatalities of more than 300 coalminers in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the past eight years.

“No section of the citizenry needs your lordship’s attention more than poor helpless labourers, especially low-paid labourers and coalminers of Pakistan,” Advocate Kalanuri pleaded before the chief justice. “Dying in a coalmine is one of the worst deaths and it is heartbreaking to see how their fellow miners endure the enormity of the ordeal. There is no doubt coalminers deserve far better workplace protection than they are currently being given,” the petition stated.

According to the petitioner, in recent years (2010- 2018) there have been at least 46 incidents of painful deaths of 327 coalminers. Fatalities in the coalmining sector in Pakistan are becoming common and there is a dire need for better labour protections.

According to the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, he added, 100 to 200 laborers die on an average in coalmine accidents every year.

“318 deaths in last few year and not a single successful prosecution by the chief inspector is a sufficient proof of his criminal negligence and failure to perform his statutory duty to initiate and pursue criminal proceedings against those responsible for coalmine deaths.”

The petition sought an enquiry into the number of fatalities that have directly resulted from accidents in coalmines in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during 2010-2018.

The top court was further requested to issue directions to initiate criminal proceedings against those responsible for coalmine deaths.

The petition further prayed to the top court to direct the provincial governments to constitute inquiry courts under the Section 21 of the Mines Act in all the cases of accidental explosion, ignition and outbreak of fire or irruption of water or other accidents.