KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Friday directed the inspector general of police and all the senior superintendents of police (SSPs) to take strict action against the menace of gutka and mainpuri in the province.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar was hearing a set of petitions seeking action against the manufacturers and sellers of the injurious substances. It also sought a compliance report by Sept 27.

An additional advocate general (AAG) requested for time to place on record the progress report regarding the legislation against the menace of gutka, mainpuri and mawa.

The bench observed that it had passed various orders earlier in different petitions with directions to police to ensure that such harmful items must not be sold in their respective territorial limits and SHOs were time and again directed to strictly enforce the court orders.

A law officer has informed the SHC that a debate on an anti-gutka bill will begin soon in provincial assembly

However, one of the petitioners complained that despite several orders, no step had been taken by police officials in their respective jurisdictions and such injurious items were being sold by different vendors and paan shops.

He further submitted that he repeatedly informed the SSPs to take action, but to no avail.

The bench observed that the petitioner had also raised serious allegations that these items, dangerous to the public health, were being sold under the protection and patronage of police officials, which was quite an alarming situation.

It directed the IGP and all the SSPs in the province to ensure strict compliance with court orders and make all possible efforts to curb this menace in society.

The bench asked to transmit the copy of this order to the chief secretary, Karachi commissioner and AAG for information and compliance.

Adjourning the matter till Sept 27, the court also asked a representative of the IGP to file a progress report on the next hearing and warned that the police chief might be summoned in person if the report was not found meaningful.

In the last hearing, the AAG submitted that a debate on the Sindh Prohibition of Preparation, Manufacturing, Storage, Sale and Use of Gutka and Mainpuri Bill would begin in the next session of the provincial legislature.

Advocate Muzammil Mumtaz and others petitioned the SHC and sought action against manufacturing and sale of the harmful substances alleging that the police were doing nothing against them.

In an earlier hearing, the bench had observed that the existing laws with regard to the punishment for manufacturing and selling gutka and mainpuri should be enhanced as culprits involved in such crimes were being booked under the British-era laws and set free after imposing minor penalties.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2019