KARACHI: Expressing concern and displeasure over failure of the provincial authorities in curbing the manufacture and sale of gutka, mainpuri and other tobacco-based items, the Sindh High Court on Wednesday asked the provincial law officer from when and where the crackdown on the menace was being carried out.

Headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, a division bench was hearing a petition filed by a concerned citizen, Rashid Khan, who informed the judges for the umpteenth time that the hazardous gutka and other items were still being sold openly in the markets.

While the provincial government’s law officer claimed that the crackdown on the manufacturers and sellers of the tobacco-based items was being carried out across the province by the police, the petitioner alleged that gutka was still being sold openly in the markets.

The petitioner further complained to the judges that no action was taken against the menace and manufacturing units were openly operating in the city under the patronage of police.

When the bench asked the assistant advocate general from when the crackdown was being carried out, he submitted that actions were being taken against the persons involved in manufacturing and selling of gutka items for the past six months.

The bench directed the government’s law officer to place on record all orders passed by the SHC on the matter and put off the hearing to Dec 4.

Earlier, the petitioner had submitted that he had moved three applications to the district West police for taking action against the manufacture and sale of gutka in Orangi Town, Baldia Town and other areas but to no avail.

He had asked the court to direct the respondents to take effective action against the culprits involved in running a gutka manufacturing factory in Ghaziabad, Orangi Town Sector 11 1/2, and other parts of the city.

The petitioner also sought disciplinary action against the officials involved in patronising the menace in the city.

In his reply to the court, the provincial police chief had submitted that currently there was no specified law against gutka-related offences and that’s why the police were compelled to register cases under sections which were not specifically meant for this crime and the culprits could be sentenced for a maximum imprisonment of six months.

He had proposed that a special law for the prohibition of gutka may be promulgated with enhanced sentence and exorbitant fines.

The court was also informed by the inspector general of police that 324 persons had been arrested and 294 cases registered in the ongoing crackdown on the manufacture and sale of gutka, mainpuri and other harmful items on the court’s directives.

LARP director denied bail

Another bench of the high court rejected the bail application of Lines Area Redevelopment Project (LARP) director Tahir Jameel Durrani in a case pertaining to ‘china-cutting’ and the sale of plots at throwaway prices.

The bench announced the order after hearing the bail plea of LARP’s director, who asked the court to release him on bail as, according to him, he was innocent and had nothing to do with the embezzlement or corruption.

Tahir Durrani, who has been behind bars for the past one year, through his counsel denied the charges and submitted that he was falsely implicated in the case.

The National Accountability Bureau prosecutor, however, requested the court to turn down his bail application arguing that there were sufficient evidence against the accused and the reference against him and other LARP officials was also pending trial before an accountability court.

Besides Durrani, NAB had booked LARP officials for allegedly ‘cutting’ an area of 7,624 square yards in Lines Area illegally and selling plots at throwaway prices.

The accused persons allegedly caused Rs363 million losses to the national exchequer through their malpractices.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2017