PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Friday dismissed a petition of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wedding Halls Association against a government ban on indoor gatherings, including wedding ceremonies, from Nov 20 in the wake of the second wave of coronavirus.
A bench consisting of Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah and Justice Mohammad Nasir Mehfooz pronounced a short order for the petition’s rejection after hearing preliminary arguments of the counsel for the association and federal and KP governments.
In the joint petition, association president Khalid Ayub and several wedding halls had requested the court to stop the government from discriminating against them by enforcing the ban on wedding functions in banquet halls ‘in the garb’ of a letter issued by the National Command and Operation Centre on Nov 7.They also sought the removal of banquet halls from the government’s restriction list over ‘unauthentic data’.
The petitioners also requested the court to direct the government to compensate them for the losses suffered during the Mar 31-Sept 15 lockdown like other sectors.
The respondents in the petition are the National Disaster Management Authority through its chairman, NCOC through its director general, KP chief secretary and Peshawar division’s commissioner.
KP marriage halls had challenged govt move in high court
Additional attorney general Babar Irshad and additional advocate general Rabnawaz appeared for the federal and KP government, respectively, and opposed the plea of the petitioners.
They pointed out that the indoor wedding ban was recommended by the NCOC in the ‘larger’ public interest due to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Mr Irshad and Mr Rabnawaz said the number of people killed by and infected with coronavirus was alarmingly increasing.
They said the Islamabad High Court had already dismissed an identical petition two days ago declaring indoor wedding ceremonies caused the virus to spread.
The lawyer for petitioners contended that the NCOC decision should be based on proper data.
He said the NCOC had on Nov 7 issued the impugned letter subjecting implementation of Stage-2 NPIs wherein a ban was imposed only on indoor marriages and only outdoor marriages were allowed with upper limit of 1000 persons.
The lawyer said the NCOC move discriminated against petitioners and no particular reason was cited for it.
He said it was not known that what data were used by the respondents to keep the business entity of petitioners, including wedding halls, marques and event halls under the grey list of Covid-19.
The lawyer claimed that through the impugned letter, the respondents were bent on creating anarchy and joblessness in the country as a whole and particularly in the petitioners’ business.
He said banquet and wedding halls remained closed from Mar 13 to Sept 15 over the outbreak of coronavirus and the fresh ban on indoor weddings would render thousands of people attached to the business jobless.
The lawyer said his clients had been properly following SOPs and none of their employees had tested positive for Covid-19.
He added that the previous pandemic-induced lockdown had badly affected his clients but the government was least bothered about compensating them for their heavy losses.
NOTIFIED: The provincial health department on Friday issued a notification banning indoor weddings and large-scale gatherings to control the spread of Covid-19.
The department said the ban slapped under the KP Epidemic Control and Emergency Relief Act, 2020, would take effect immediately.
It said only outdoor marriages, functions and events would be allowed with the attendance limited to 300 and that, too, in compliance with SOPs.
The notification said all kinds of large-scale gatherings had also banned.
The department asked the people to use face masks in public places.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2020