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Parliament should have debated 18th Amendment: CJP

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Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar has said that the parliament should have debated the provisions of the 18th Amendment bill before passing it. The remarks came during a hearing of a case regarding a controversy between the federal and Sindh governments over control of three major hospitals in Karachi.

The CJP said that the parliament was the supreme body to make and amend laws but observed that it needed to debate the laws before passing them.

Farooq H. Naek, counsel for the Sindh government, argued that health and hospitals had never been a federal subject, rather they always remained within the powers of the provincial governments.

The Sindh government had approached the apex court against a decision by the Sindh High Court in which it had declared that three Karachi hospitals — Jinnah Postgraduate Medical College (JPMC), National Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases (NICVD) and National Institute of Child Health (NICH) — fell in the federal domain. Sindh government maintains that since the health subject has been devolved to the provinces under the 18th Amendment, control and management of the three hospitals should vest in the provincial government.

Former Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, who represented the NICVD before the SC, said these health institutions should have been devolved in 1961 when Karachi ceased to be the capital. He said the JPMC existed even before Karachi was declared the capital in 1948.

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The chief justice said it was difficult for the court to interpret the amendment in the absence of a parliamentary debate on it. He observed that everything was kept under wraps when the amendment was being drafted.

The former Senate chairman informed the court that a special committee of the parliament took nine months to finalize its draft. He said public recommendations were also invited through a media advertisement, and as a result, the committee received 981 recommendations.

Farooq H. Naek, counsel for the Sindh government, argued that health and hospitals had never been a federal subject, rather they always remained within the powers of the provincial governments.

The university has currently 1,750 students enrolled while over 7000 students are enrolled at the 10 colleges affiliated with the university in Sindh. The court will take up the case again on Friday.

Advocate General Sindh Salman Talibuddin argued that the institutions in question were hospitals and not federal government agencies and, therefore, they should come within the purview of the provincial government.

The issue at the heart of the dispute is that the Sindh Jinnah Medical University (SJMU) which is attached with the JPMC as its teaching hospital, may lose its recognition by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), the medical education regulator.

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The university has currently 1,750 students enrolled while over 7000 students are enrolled at the 10 colleges affiliated with the university in Sindh. The court will take up the case again on Friday.

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