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SC’s concern with healthcare

The Punjab government’s infrastructure development projects have been ambitious without a doubt. The Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) has dominated news recently owing to litigation over expected damage to heritage sites. The government has resumed work on the project following SC’s go ahead at a fast pace. On Saturday, Supreme Court Chief Justice chided the government for giving priority just to such infrastructure projects at the cost of healthcare and education.
Saturday’s hearing of the suo moto case again saw those heading the provincial bureaucracy and teaching hospitals appearing before the CJ. However, the CJ’s ire wasn’t reserved just for those in charge of the public-sector health facilities.
In an unprecedented move, the CJ imposed a ceiling on tuition fees charged at private medical colleges across the country and also expressed dissatisfaction over private practice of doctors employed in the public sector.
In late November, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) had announced that there would be no change in fees structure despite a proposal to increase the fees of medical and dental colleges by almost 50 percent.
It is encouraging that the SC is taking up issues pertaining to healthcare and education. But some commentators have expressed concern at the manner in which proceedings in suo moto notices in Punjab and Sindh are evolving. The issue at hand has to do with keeping the fine line between the executive and the judicial branches of the state intact. Providing public goods in an effective manner is the task of the executive. The judicial branch has to ensure adequate oversight, meaning whenever and wherever the failure of the executive is objectively verifiable, judicial intervention becomes warranted. But that needs to be done in a manner that the fine line [between judiciary and executive] isn’t affected.
Since the honourable justices are rightly concerned about fixing the education and healthcare infrastructure, we hope they realise that it is not a task that can be accomplished over a suo moto case alone. It will involve long-term and dedicated efforts by the executive branch under the oversight of the legislature from where the vision and the policy has to come.
Meanwhile, the judiciary will better serve the pubic by clearing backlog of cases pending hearings for years at various courts in the country and by taking up matters like enforced disappearances that violate the social contract of the state with citizens in a much more direct and immediate manner.



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