SC to constitute special bench for protection of minority rights

Updated 04 Oct 2019

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The SC bench had taken up a case relating to the rights of minorities and asked the federal and provincial governments to furnish before the court monthly reports highlighting steps taken to ensure the rights of the minorities. — Dawn/File
The SC bench had taken up a case relating to the rights of minorities and asked the federal and provincial governments to furnish before the court monthly reports highlighting steps taken to ensure the rights of the minorities. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to constitute a special bench for the implementation of its 2014 judgement on the protection of minority rights and promotion of a culture of religious and social tolerance.

Subsequently, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, referred the matter to Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa for his consideration to constitute the implementation bench.

Read: A welcome judgement

The SC bench had taken up a case relating to the rights of minorities and asked the federal and provincial governments to furnish before the court monthly reports highlighting steps taken to ensure the rights of the minorities.

Additional Advocate General for Punjab Chaudhry Faisal Hussain represented the province.

The 2014 verdict was seen as providing basis for curbing increasing intolerance and bigotry in society

In what was billed as a verdict that may correct the course of increasing intolerance, hate and bigotry in society, the Supreme Court had in 2014 directed the law enforcing agencies to promptly register criminal cases for desecrating the places of worship of minorities or on violation of any of their rights guaranteed under the law.

Authored by former chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, the verdict had ordered its court office to open a separate file to be placed before a three-judge bench for ensuring that the judgement was given effect to in letter and spirit. The bench will be free to entertain complaints or petitions related to violation of the fundamental rights of minorities in the country.

The verdict had asked the federal government to ensure that hate speech on social media was discouraged and delinquents were brought to justice.

The verdict had come on a suo motu initiated on the Sept 22, 2013 unfortunate Peshawar church bomb attack in which 81 persons died.

The 32-page judgement had also highlighted the need for promoting a culture of religious and social tolerance by developing appropriate curricula at the school and college levels, besides constituting a task force for developing a strategy of religious tolerance and establishing a special police force with professional training to protect the places of worship of minorities.

It asked for the constitution of a national council for minority rights which should be tasked with monitoring practical realisation of the rights and safeguards provided to the minorities under the Constitution and the law.

The council should also be mandated to frame policy recommendations for safeguarding and protecting minorities’ rights by the federal and provincial governments.

The judgement was clear in directing the federal and provincial governments to ensure the enforcement of the policy directives regarding reservation of quota for minorities in all services.

Referring to the desecration of places of worship of minorities, the judgement had regretted that such incidents could be warded off if the authorities concerned had taken preventive measures at the appropriate time.

The inaction on the part of the law enforcement agencies was on account of the lack of proper understanding of the relevant law, the judgement had said.

The verdict had also regretted the general lack of awareness about the rights of minorities among the people and those entrusted with enforcement of law were also not fully sensitised to this issue either. “It needs to be reiterated that under the Constitution minorities have a special status,” the verdict emphasised.

On Thursday, PTI leader Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani informed the apex court that none amongst the minorities had been appointed chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, contrary to earlier directives of the court, adding that still 15 to 23 members of the ETPB were Muslim.

The court, however, told Dr Vankwani that being in the government he should have fulfilled the demands through the government.

During the hearing, Justice Bandial observed that the Kartarpur Corridor was a huge development, adding that everybody had the right to worship as per their religion.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2019