Published On: Fri, Dec 4th, 2020
Published in Category: Politics

CJ IHC Athar Minallah dismisses plea seeking ban on political, religious gatherings amid Covid-19

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Thursday dismissed a plea seeking a ban on political and religious gatherings across the country amid the second wave of Covid-19, observing that it was not the court’s job to intervene in the enforcement of standard operating procedures (SOPs) after having passed a judgment in this regard.

During the hearing, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah termed the petition non-maintainable.

The petitioner, in his prayer, had said that even though there was a court judgment calling for implementation of SOPs during the coronavirus crisis, public gatherings were still going on unhindered. Rejecting the prayer, Justice Athar Minallah asked the petitioner to go to the parliament and the executive to resolve the issue instead.

In the written verdict issued on Thursday, Justice Athar Minallah said the order to implement SOPs had already been given and thus the “court is not inclined to exercise its extraordinary constitutional jurisdiction” if the executive is unable to enforce it.

“Judgments rendered by judicial forums become meaningless and ineffective in times of crisis when it appears that the executive authorities lack the capacity to implement them in letter and spirit. Judgments, unless respected by the citizens, State institutions and political leadership, remain unenforced and thus rule of law is undermined and consequently it profoundly impacts the confidence of the people in the judiciary, ” read the verdict.

He also dismissed a part of the petition seeking to restrict PEMRA from covering individuals who violate SOPs because it involves elements of freedom of speech and carries “likely implications in the context of the guaranteed fundamental rights under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973”.

The court said it was up to all members of society to collectively ensure that everyone takes appropriate action in their capacities to ensure the threat of Covid-19 is contained.

Justice Minallah said he understood the concerns of the petitioner since the incidence of Covid-19 had surged within the past few weeks and left the most marginalised vulnerable to harm while aggravating health and economic crises.

Expressing displeasure over the executive’s inability to implement the court’s decision, Justice Minallah wrote:

“If the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), the supreme forum which represents every citizen, has opted not to play its role nor the elected executive and other political leadership appear to have the will to rise above their differences and unite the nation, then a judgment rendered by this Court relating to the emergency and crisis situation due to Covid-19 is likely to remain unenforced.”

Earlier, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had ruled that the implementation of NCOC’s decisions is mandatory in the event of a coronavirus crisis and legal action may be taken against those violating its decisions.

Dismissing a petition challenging the ban on marquee halls during the second wave of Covid-19, the court endorsed the decisions of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) to ban the gathering of 300 persons, and public meetings across the country, including in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) due to the coronavirus.

In the eight-page judgment, the court observed that it could not interfere in the affairs of executive. It stated that the organisers of the public meetings would be responsible for any loss of human life due to the coronavirus and legal action would be taken in case of violation of the NCOC orders.

It said that in view of the second wave of coronavirus, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) introduced by the NCOC should be strictly implemented. IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah also said that it was high time for all the political parties to demonstrate unity against the pandemic.