Feb 21, 2009

Ban on polythene bags: City govt makes a strong case

KARACHI: The city district government has banned the manufacture, sale and use of polythene bags in the public interest under a law enacted in 2006 and a plan prepared in consultation with the environment ministry and the environment protection agency, the Sindh High Court was informed on Thursday.
In its comments submitted through Advocate Manzoor Ahmed, the CDGK said the indestructible polythene bags clogged sewerage and water pipelines and caused them to overflow, contaminated water and polluted the environment.
The government was in the process of replacing the old pipelines with the new ones but the entire expenditure would go down the drain if the use of plastic bags continued unabated.
The disposal of garbage, the CDGK stated, had become well nigh impossible as polythene was not bio-degradable. Before enforcing the ban under the 2006 law, the city government obtained expert opinion and consulted the business community. The manufacturers of bags were also invited for talks but they chose to stay away. The home department was approached to take the necessary legal action to implement the statutory ban.
The CDGK said the petitioner association of manufacturers and dealers of plastic bags had approached the court against the ban over two years after the adoption of the law and the petition suffered from laches. It has also failed to establish its legal status. No details have been given of the types of bags being manufactured by the petitioners. The petitioner has not submitted any documents to determine the density of the material used or to substantiate the claim that only 30 per cent of the bags manufactured in Karachi were sold in the city while 70 per cent were exported.
The respondent maintained that pollution caused by polythene bags was a worldwide phenomenon and a number of countries were outlawing their use. In the Indian capital, the offence of manufacture, storage and use of polythene bags carried a jail sentence of five years and a fine of Rs100,000. Either the use of polythene bags had been declared a criminal offence or heavily taxed in the urban areas of the United States and the United Kingdom and other European countries.
A division bench comprising Justices Khilji Arif Hussain and Arshad Noor Khan adjourned further hearing for a rejoinder by the petitioner association and extended the interim stay granted in its favour.
Hospital waste
Another division bench consisting of Justices Azizullah M. Memon and Abdul Rehman Faruq Pirzada adjourned to Feb 19 the hearing of a petition against incineration of hospital waste in Karachi for comments by the federal ministry of health and the provincial health department.
Petitioner-lawyer Qazi Ali Athar said disposal by incineration was injurious to public health and had been discarded in many countries. Over 600 tonnes of hospital waste was generated in Karachi daily, out of which 130 tonnes were disposed by incinerators installed in various parts of the city. He disputed the cantonment boards’ claim that filth depots did not exist in their jurisdiction and pointed out that there was one near a plaza in front of the Karachi Cantonment Board in Saddar.
Comments sought
The bench comprising Justices K.A. Hussain and A.N. Khan asked the provincial co-operatives department to submit its comments in a petition moved by Nasimul Haq Malik, a grade 19 officer, by March 2.
Advocate Muhammad Ikram Siddiqui submitted on behalf of the petitioner that his promotion from grade 18 was due in 2006 but he was belatedly promoted in Nov 2008. On his promotion he was transferred to Hyderabad in disregard of the ‘wedlock policy’, under which an employee could not be transferred from a city if his or her spouse was also working there. The petitioner’s wife was working as an associate professor in grade 19 in a DHA college, the counsel said.
UTP produced
Another division bench comprising Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Justice Faisal Arab asked the jail authorities to treat under-trial prisoner Ali Muhammad Hajano in accordance with the law and rules. The UTP was produced in court on a petition moved by his father, Gul Mohammad Hajano, a former executive district officer (education) who is now practising law. The petitioner had complained that his son was being maltreated.
The jail authorities denied maltreatment said the UTP was being provided all due facilities, including a medical check-up.
Publicity charges
Another bench consisting of Justices Mohammad Athar Saeed and Syed Mahmood Alam Rizvi adjourned to Feb 25 a beverage manufacturer’s petition against imposition of external publicity tax by the city district government. The petitioner said the respondent government had no authority under the law to levy the tax as no service was being provided by it in return for the levy.
CDGK counsel Manzoor Ahmed said the levy was a fee imposed on the petitioner and other companies for using roads and other infrastructure for advertising their products. It was leviable on any publicity material, including boards and mobile vans or trucks advertising a product. The petitioner approached the court in 2005 but had since agreed to pay the fee under a settlement and the question was now merely of academic interest, the counsel said.

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