PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Thursday issued a notice to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government seeking response to a petition against non-appointment of the provincial ombudsperson under an anti-harassment law for the last many years.
Chief Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ikramullah Khan issued the order after preliminary arguments were held on the petition filed by an NGO, Da Hawwa Lur (Daughter of the Eve), through chief executive Khursheed Bano seeking the court’s orders for the provincial government to immediately make the said appointment.
The petitioner said while ombudspersons were appointed at federal level by the federal government, and by the Sindh and Punjab government, the KP government had turned a blind eye towards such a crucial appointment.
He requested the court to declare the non-appointment of ombudsman illegal and based on the government’s ‘ulterior motives’.
The petitioner requests the court to issue directives for appointment of ombudsman and awareness program be initiated by the government through print and electronic media so the vulnerable class and women should come to know about the proper forum for the resolution of their complaints.
The respondents in the petition are KP government through its chief secretary; KP Assembly speaker; KP Assembly secretary; women empowerment and social welfare department through its secretary; law, justice and human rights ministry through its secretary, and the federal government through the relevant federal secretary.
The petitioner’s lawyer, Saifullah Muhib Kakakhel, said parliament passed the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010, in 2010 with an aim to check harassment of persons in public and private sector institutions.
He said under Section 7 of the said Act, the appointment of the federal and provincial ombudsmen had to be made by the relevant government.
“That section provides that a person shall be qualified to be appointed as an ombudsman who has been a judge of high court or qualified to be appointed as a judge of high court,” he said.
The lawyer said parliament later passed another law, the Federal Ombudsman Institutional Reforms Act, 2013, to relax the criteria of the appointment of the anti-harassment ombudsman under Section 21.
“Now a woman with an experience of at least 10 years in the matter relating to protection of women against harassment shall also be eligible to be appointed by the President as ombudsman, under the Protection Against harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010,” he said.
Mr. Saifullah said until now, the KP government had not taken any step to implement the said law even though the representatives of his client’s organisation held meetings with the KP Assembly’s speaker, women empowerment minister and chief secretary, who had promised to appoint the ombudsperson within one month in 2016.
He claimed that so many cases were recorded and highlighted by the media of sexual harassment at the University of Peshawar, Khyber Medical College and other institutes but due to unavailability of the post of ombudsperson, they were dealt by a wrong forum and that later, things were patched up by pressurising students and harassment victims.