KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Friday directed the provincial authorities to seek advice of medical experts and also adopt guidelines of National Coordination Committee on the issue of complete ban on pillion riding and if required some SOPs were framed for due implementation.

While disposing of a petition challenging April 18 notification about a complete ban on pillion riding in the province, the two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar pointed out that in its order issued on May 10 regarding relaxation of lockdown, the provincial government had neither mentioned, nor covered the April 18 notification and only mentioned the notification of April 14 regarding the ban on pillion riding with some exceptions and April 23 order for Ramazan’s Taraweeh.

The additional advocate general, Jawad Dero, submitted that keeping in view the current situation and relaxation of lockdown, the Sindh home department would issue necessary clarification regarding the April 14 notification with regard to pillion riding exemption to certain persons.

The bench observed that though according to AAG these restrictions had been imposed in order to save the people from pandemic, at the same time it was also a ground reality that some relaxations had been extended in the lockdown period and various categories of shops were allowed to open under certain restrictions and implementation of SOPs with specific time for opening and closing.

The AAG also placed on record an order of the Supreme Court issued on May 4 and submitted that the apex court had issued directive to formulate a uniform policy and after due consultation of federating units with the federal government at the NCC meeting certain businesses were allowed to open conditionally with SOPs against Covid-19.

Home dept to issue clarification regarding pillion riding ban, court told

The bench noted that on April 14, the home department imposed a ban on pillion riding with some relaxations, but on April 18 it was modified and a complete ban was put in place by withdrawing all exceptions.

The AAG and focal person for home department claimed that family members were allowed, including persons requiring medical care, but no specific order was available on record except an inference which can be drawn from the April 14 notification, it added.

“So far as complete lifting of ban on pillion riding in the present situation and lockdown relaxation period is concerned, they will take medical advice of experts in field and also adopt the guidelines of National Coordination Committee and if requires some SOP will be framed for pillion riding for due implementation. The petition is disposed of accordingly”, the bench in its order concluded.

A journalist petitioned the SHC and contended that the provincial government had put a complete ban on pillion riding barring journalists and others and contended that it was illegal.

Impleading the chief secretary Sindh, home secretary, provincial police officer and other as respondents, the petitioner argued that the journalist community was facing severe hardships in performing their professional duties due to the complete ban on pillion riding.

Hoarding, black market of essential items

The same bench on Friday sought details from a provincial law officer regarding a bill about essential commodities prices control and prevention of hoarding and profiteering till June 3.

When a petition against the menace of profiteering, black market and hoarding of essential commodities in the province came up for hearing, an official of the bureau of supply and pricing drew attention of judges to a bill titled the Sindh Essential Commodities Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Bill 2016.

He submitted that the chief minister had also approved a summary in this regard in September 2016 and asked to place it before the cabinet.

The AAG argued that by efflux of time the bill had lapsed and might be presented again by the secretary concerned.

The bench directed the AGG to make a proper clarification from the authority concerned and come up with definite answers of all the queries which were meant to make the state departments more functional and proactive to curb the menace of hoarding and profiteering in the essential commodities and to give full effect of all legislation in filed.

It also sought details of the vacant posts in the bureau of supply and price department after a petitioner pointed out that many key posts in the department were lying vacant.

Opening of small businesses

The bench on Friday also disposed of another petition regarding small businesses after the provincial authorities informed it that small businesses and shops were allowed to operate under the SOPs and said that they would consider about opening of barber shops and beauty parlours after the advice of health experts if required SOP were formulated for this purpose.

A petitioner approached the SHC seeking some directions for the Sindh government to open shops.

The AAG submitted that the home department had issued an order on May 10 allowing community markets, retail outlets and other shops to open with some SOPs.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2020