LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday directed the deputy commissioner and the DIG (Operations) to decide an application seeking permission to hold “Aurat March” as per the law and guidelines/code of conduct for the marchers submitted by the organisers.

Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh observed that all citizens had the right to express their feelings or message but within the very limits of the Constitution and the law.

He further observed that no hate speech, slogans and placards should be allowed that could hurt sentiments of any segment of society.

The chief justice was hearing two applications against and in support of the Aurat March-2020 scheduled to be held on March 8.

Advocate Saqib Jillani, on behalf of the march’s organisers, presented to the court five-point guidelines set for the posters and placards at the upcoming march.

Counsel submits guidelines set for participants

The guidelines require the participants to refrain from using any language or images on their posters and placards discriminatory towards any religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender or sexual identity. The organisers will not condone any messages that will instigate or promote violence or hate speech.

“We encourage posters and placards that follow this year’s theme of ‘Khud Mukhtar’/self-determination and self sufficiency,” say the guidelines.

The lawyer said the organisers could not take responsibility for individual acts of the participants who would be thousands in number.

Chief Justice Sheikh observed that the court was cognisant of this fact but even than the organisers were supposed to act with responsibility.

Advocate Azhar Siddique, the counsel for the applicants against the march, contended that the matter before the court stood infructuous since the district administration had started its procedure on the application from all parties. He said the DIG (Operations) had also held a hearing session for the parties the other day.

He asked the court that the administration be directed to regulate the march in accordance with the existing laws and Islamic injunctions.

The lawyer reiterated that he never wanted to have the Aurat March banned but to be regulated under the law.

The CJ disposed of the applications from both sides on the subject of the march and directed the district administration to decide the application for the NoC of the activity as per the law and guidelines furnished by the organisers.

A report submitted by the DIG (Operations) cited a threat alert received through reliable sources that the defunct TTP carried out “recce” of few areas in Lahore as targets for terrorist activities as per their convenience. The areas included Lahore Press Club, Mall Road and Qurban Lines.

It said the activity was likely to be carried out during any public gathering such as sit-in and the venue of the Aurat March was in close vicinity of Mall Road.

The report said fool proof security arrangements would be made for the march. However, it said, it was essential that organisers adhered to a proper code of conduct which should prohibit the participants from engaging in any controversial acts.

The police also held a meeting with socio-religious groups who had reservations over conduct of last year’s Aurat March and announced holding a counter rally if the marchers did not follow any proper code of conduct.

In the main petition, the chief justice directed the FIA to hold an inquiry into leak of former chief justice Saqib Nisar’s son’s wedding pictures with malicious intent and find out the culprits.

Advocate Siddique complained to the court that there had been a targeted campaign on social media against the former chief justice and a dam fund established by the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2020

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