KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday directed the provincial authorities to launch a province-wide drive against manufacturers and sellers of gutka and mainpuri.
Suspending an order of the district and sessions judge (Thatta) regarding disposal of gutka and mainpuri cases, Justice Salahuddin Panhwar of the SHC observed that there was no provision in the law to allow a district judge to pass such an order.
Initially, a suspect had approached the SHC with an acquittal appeal in a gutka and mainpuri case and mentioned the order of the district and sessions judge in his plea.
The bench suspends a Thatta court order about disposal of gutka cases
The appellant informed the bench that District and Sessions Judge Amjad Ali Kazi in his order observed that gutka, mainpuri and other material containing hazardous elements were not falling within the ambit of Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Pakistan Penal Code and directed magistrates as well as sessions courts (appellant forum) to dispose of such cases within a month.
The SHC observed that prima facie the district and sessions judge through his order had given a licence for sale of gutka in Thatta district while quite surprisingly interpreting both the sections in question.
The order further stated that the district judge ignored that use of gutka had been resulting in serious diseases, adding there was also no provision in the law to allow a district judge to pass a general direction to all courts of his district to follow his view which otherwise had no binding effect upon such judiciary on independent criminal matters.
“Prima facie, the observations of district judge have been in complete negation to the orders of higher judiciary on such issues, although it was never within competence of district judge to have done so,” the bench remarked.
“Accordingly, such approach of the learned sessions judge, Thatta cannot be approved particularly when the same is likely to allow a licence for [sale] of ‘gutkas’ in whole district Thatta which otherwise was/is ‘injurious to health’ and even studies have proven that it even targets small children and women,” it added.
The bench also ruled that the district judge also attempted to bar district police as well as district administration from taking lawful measures for an unlawful act and omission.
While suspending the district court order, it directed the home secretary, provincial police chief, deputy commissioners and SSPs to launch a campaign and lodge cases against all those selling gutka and mainpuri under any title.
The order further said that a two-judge SHC bench had also passed an order on gutka and mainpuri in which it had directed the chief secretary, provincial police chief and other senior officials for a follow-up of proper enactment of a permanent ban on gutka and mainpuri or these products with other titles, operation against manufacturers as well as sellers of these items.
Justice Panhwar also sought a compliance report from the chief secretary, local government secretary and inspector general of police in pursuance of the judgement handed down by the two-judge SHC bench.
The bench also asked the member inspection team (MIT) of the SHC to call complete record of the cases disposed of by the district courts of Thatta after the order of the district and sessions judge.
Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018