Lahore (January 11, 2018): Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar explained on Thursday that the Constitution gives him the right to visit hospitals.
He made the remarks while hearing a case related to the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council.
During the hearing, the chief justice referred to criticism of his recent visit to Lahore’s Mayo Hospital. “It was asked under what jurisdiction I visited the hospital,” he remarked, before answering that the Constitution gives him the right to do so.The chief justice remarked that he will visit every medical college and those with inadequate facilities will be closed down. “This is a matter of citizens’ health. I will keep visiting hospitals,” he observed.
He offered some words of comfort to private medical colleges fighting for their future, taking a comparatively lenient stance than the one he has taken in previous hearings.
Having previously warned the owners and CEOs of private medical colleges of a “complete shutdown,” the chief justice during Thursday’s session said, “We don’t want to shut down private medical colleges as they do share the burden of the public sector, but these institutions should not turn into business organisations either.”Those remarks were made as the chief justice, presiding over a three-member bench, heard an appeal moved by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) against the Dec 7, 2017, order of the Lahore High Court to dissolve the council and strike down the PMDC’s admission regulations which it introduced for a ‘merit-based admission process’ in 2016.
It was, however, made clear that private medical colleges would be regulated even if the chief justice had to get personally involved.
“Do not think that only a few medical colleges will be inspected,” he said. “This process will be ongoing and I will personally visit each and every medical college. I will go wherever there is an issue of basic human rights.”Pakistan Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutions’ counsel Barrister Ali Zafar reminded the court of Pakistan’s shortage of physicians, saying: “In Pakistan, we have only 164,000 registered doctors when our need is of 500,000.”
To this, the chief justice responded: “We need 500,000 doctors, not quacks. We need expert surgeons who can operate, not the kind that abduct addicts from Data Darbar and sells their kidneys to the Arabs.”
“To overcome such malpractices you need to help us,” Chief Justice Nisar added.
Meanwhile, Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali told the court that the federal government had taken notice of the court’s proceedings and that legislation in this regard was being considered.“The cabinet yesterday received a briefing from me on the topic of the PMDC Ordinance and medical colleges,” the attorney general informed. “The government will take important decisions on this matter during its joint session. The legislation will hopefully be done soon.”
At this, the chief justice said: “This case was in high court for several months but the government only sprang into action when it reached the Supreme Court.”
The chief justice, however, refrained from asking the government to be swift, noting: “Parliament is a supreme organisation. Legislation is its domain only. We cannot set a time limit for the parliament to legislate within.”The apex court, under its 2018 agenda, is focusing on human rights issues, particularly those relating to the people’s right to quality education and healthcare. However, this course of action is also being seen as an overstepping of boundaries, similar to the Iftikhar Chaudhry era.
However, the chief justice has stood by the court’s actions, reiterating that such criticism will not deter him from exercising what he considers is his “constitutional right.”
“There was a lot of criticism over my visit of Mayo Hospital,” the chief justice recalled. “But I haven’t stepped on anyone’s toes. I am operating within the authority given to me under the Constitution. These measures of mine shouldn’t be considered interference with anyone’s authority. This is my constitutional right.”
The hearing has been adjourned until Friday.On December 19, the chief justice and other members of the Lahore Registry bench hearing a suo motu case related to contaminated drinking water visited the Mayo Hospital and inquired into its facilities.
The judges, during the visit, interacted with patients and also ordered better drinking facilities at the premises.
After that, the chief justice twice referred to criticisim of the visit, which was also brought up by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
On Dec 23 in Karachi, while hearing the water pollution case, the chief justice remarked that he visited the hospital to safeguard the lives of citizens as it is mentioned in the Constitution that the judiciary is also responsible for the provision of basic services to people.Later, on Dec 28, while hearing the matter of fee structure at medical colleges, the chief justice had observed that his recent visit to Mayo Hospital was heavily criticised but maintained that he will pay a visit wherever there is a healthcare issue.
He had remarked that the court is hearing cases of public interest because of passion, not for its personal glory.
On Tuesday, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif referred to the visit, telling the chief justice to “feel free to go to [these] hospitals, but also look at what is happening in your own courts”.
He was speaking to lawyers at the Punjab House in Islamabad after attending a corruption hearing against him and his family following his disqualification.Earlier, on January 6 this year, the former premier’s daughter Maryam Nawaz requested the chief justice to spare some time for Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from where people visit hospitals of Punjab for treatment.
She made the statement on Twitter following the chief justice’s criticism of the Punjab government while hearing the case of the deplorable state of public hospitals in Punjab.Meanwhile, hearing the Al Razi Medical College case on Thursday, the chief justice pleaded with the lawyers’ fraternity to stop boycotting courts in the name of protests.
He was referring to the boycott of courts by the legal community today in light of the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kasur, Punjab.
The chief justice observed that lawyers should hold protests but a boycott is not warranted. “Sadness [about the Kasur incident] aside, there was no reason for a boycott of courts,” he asserted.“I put my hands together and appeal to lawyers to leave the way of protests and aggression,” he remarked.
The chief justice further observed that a negative fallout of the 2007 lawyers’ movement, which restored the judiciary deposed by the then-president General Pervez Musharraf, was the instilling of arrogance in judges and a violent streak in lawyers.
He stated further that pride and conceit is the end of a judge.
The case was then adjourned until next week.