Governor Imran Ismail signs Sindh coronavirus Emergency Relief Ordinance 2020

KARACHI: Governor Sindh Imran Ismail on Friday signed the Sindh COVID-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance 2020, which provides a legal framework for provision of economic relief to the province’s citizenry, into law.

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The ordinance was signed after it was amended by the Sindh government to address objections earlier raised by the governor and the federal government.

The Sindh governor had on May 7 returned the ordinance to the Sindh government without giving it his assent, objecting to clauses related to providing relief to the masses in the payment of electricity and gas bills.

The governor had objected that electricity and gas bills are not under the domain of the provincial government and that the two utility services are federal subjects and any decision taken regarding them should, therefore, be a federal prerogative.

The new draft of the ordinance does not, therefore, contain provisions for relief related to electricity and gas billing for consumers in the province. Relief related to water and sewerage service billing has been retained, however.

The ordinance has taken effect retrospectively from April 1, 2020 all over the province. Anyone violating the provisions of the ordinance may be slapped with a fine of up to Rs1mn and/or face seizure of their movable or immovable property.

The ordinance provides relief to students of private schools, as they will be required to only pay 80% of their tuition fee for the period of the coronavirus emergency.

The ordinance also bars employers from terminating the services of any employee during the coronavirus emergency.

The ordinance also provides a mechanism for payment of reduced salaries to employees of establishments which have been shut as part of anti-coronavirus restrictions in the province.

The ordinance also carries the provision of deferring or suspending payment of rent by a tenant related to any residential premises, office, or shop.

The deferring of 50% rent payment will not be applicable in cases where the landlord is a widow or differently-abled person.

The ordinance also carries the provision of exemption in payment of provincial taxes and duties by the general public and traders.

For example, in payment of monthly water bills, consumers living in a house of area up to 80 square yards will not be required to pay any bill. For a house on an area from 161 square yards to 240 square yards, 50% payment of water bill will be paid while any house built on an area above 240 square yards will have to make full payment of the water bill.

For a flat on an area up to 800 square feet, no water bill has to be paid while 50% of the water bill has to be paid for flats on 1,000 to 1,200 square feet area. For flat that occupies an area more than 1,200 square feet, full payment of water bill has to be paid.

In a separate video message, Sindh Law and Environment Adviser Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that the Sindh Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance-2020 has also come into effect all over the province. The provincial law adviser said that any shop, business and commercial establishment, or factory could face fine up to Rs1mn in case of the violation of the Standard Operating Procedures related to the coronavirus lockdown.

He urged shopkeepers, retailers, factory or business owners to ensure due observance of SOPs, including measures related to social distancing among staffers and customers and personal hygiene.

He said that anyone violating the ban on public gatherings, events, or congregations in the province could face fines as given in the said ordinance.

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