ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Friday directed all the provincial governments to pay salaries to lady health workers (LHWs) on Saturday (today), and, in case of failure the responsible officials could face contempt of court charges.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was hearing the central chairperson of Pakistan Health Worker Employees Association Bushra Arain’s application regarding non-payment of salaries to lady health workers.

Deputy Attorney General Aleem Abbasi informed the court that the federal government had deposited the funds in the provincial government accounts for payment of salaries to LHWs.  The State Bank of Pakistan had also confirmed that the Finance Division had deposited the funds in provincial governments’ accounts for the LHWs salaries, he added.

However, a representative of the Planning Commission informed the court that due to non-availability of the secretary transfer of funds to provinces was delayed. The chief justice asked him what would happen if people would die of hunger.

The CJP observed that the job, which had to be completed on July 15 was done on 15th August, therefore, the Finance Division and the provincial governments were responsible for it. The petitioner lady health workers said they would celebrate Eid without salaries and demanded that the court should send those officials behind bars who were responsible for the delay.

Justice Azmat Saeed, member of the bench, concurring with her statement said it was a good idea. The chief justice expressing annoyance said it was responsibility of the state to protect the fundamental rights of the people.  He said non-payment of salaries could be tantamount to contempt of court and warned that CoC proceedings could be initiated against the responsible if the court order was not complied with.

Earlier, the advocate generals of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed the court that the federal government had transferred the salaries in the provinces’ accounts on Friday.  They added now the provincial government would pay salaries to LHWs. However, the advocate general Balochistan informed the court that they had not received the funds for LHWs salaries from the federal government. He said the provincial government had decided to pay them salaries from provincial funds.

The hearing was suspended for interval. After the interval, a two-member bench minus Chief Justice heard the case. The bench directed the National and Habib Banks to make sure that lady health workers get salaries by today (Saturday), while the finance secretaries of all the four provinces and AGPR were ordered to submit the compliance report in the office.

The court also ordered to pay Rs20,000 to Bushra Arain separately besides her salary as expenditure.

The case was adjourned for two weeks.