KARACHI - The federal authorities informed the Sindh High Court that the economic affairs division (EAD) had formulated the NGOs Policy 2013 which had been approved by the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet.

The EAD filed comments before the two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar in response to a petition challenging the Sindh Charities Registration and Regulation Act, 2019.

The additional secretary of EAD Syeda Adeela Bokhari submitted the comments and it contended that the policy was approved with an aim to ensure effectiveness of foreign aid flowing through NGOs and other non-profit organisations while keeping national interest intact.

It further maintained that as per policy, documents of NGOs were circulated among the stakeholders including security agencies for clearance and on the basis of reports of the stakeholders the cases of NGOs were decided for signing of MoU.

The EAD in its comments further said that it was processing the cases of foreign funded projects of NGOs as per policy 2013, adding that cases of NGOs were being decided strictly as per policy, merit and without any discrimination and prejudice. The bench issued direction to provide the copy of comments to the counsel for petitioners and adjourned the hearing till Nov 12 and said that the interim stay order passed earlier for not taking any adverse action against the petitioners will continue till next hearing.

The petition was filed by several civil society organisations through senior counsel Rasheed A. Razvi against the act and contented that it was ultra vires and in violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution and capable of being used as a tool for oppression and discrimination and was liable to be struck down.

They asked the court to declare that the respondent economic affairs division has no statutory backing/locus standi and authority to frame, regulate and enact the rules of the NGOs Policy, 2013.

Treatment for senior citizens

The same bench on Wednesday directed the provincial secretary of social welfare department and chairman of the council established under the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act, 2014 to appear on Nov 25. The Legal Aid Society moved the SHC and submitted that all private hospitals and medical centres were bound to provide 25 per cent concession to senior citizens under the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act, 2014.

The petitioner further argued that according to Section 5(f) of the law, senior citizens’ council shall provide free geriatric, medical and health services with free medicines as provided by the respective medical officer from the government hospitals and 25pc concession at all private hospitals, medical centres and clinics.