KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday directed the chief secretary and others to pursue the proposed amendments to be made in a law against manufacturing and sale of gutka and manpuri and place the same before the provincial assembly.

A single-judge bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar also directed the police to file a report about the action taken by the internal bureau of the Sindh police against officers involved in the notorious business.

Earlier, the SHC had observed that it was the need of the time to make the law more effective and formed a committee that had suggested amendments to the Sindh Prohibition of Preparation, Manufacturing, Storage, Sale and Use of Gutka and Manpuri Act 2019 to curb the illegal sale of this hazardous substance.

The proposed amendments in the law are related to enhancement of punishment and fine, treat fungus-infected betel nut at par with gutka, mawa and manpuri injurious to human health and investigation of such cases to be carried out not below the rank of inspector.

Justice Panhwar seeks report on action taken against policemen involved in patronising the notorious business

After promulgation of the law, thousands of FIRs had been registered under the act, but the trials resulted in the acquittal of the accused and the perusal of the judgments showed defective investigation and inconsistent and contradictory evidence on part of the prosecution as the main reasons, the bench had observed. Thus, it had asked the committee that a new section may also be added in this regard.

At the outset of the hearing on Monday, a provincial law officer submitted that there was legislation and the amendments as recommended by the committee were examined by the secretaries of law and home departments and both had taken all-out efforts while submitting such a summary before the provincial cabinet.

A representative of the home department stated that the summary had been vetted by the provincial cabinet and now it was to be placed before the Sindh Assembly for legislation.

The proposed amendments along with a statement were placed before the bench by the focal person of the home department, which were taken on record.

While adjourning the matter till Jan 16, the bench directed the chief secretary, secretaries of the home and law departments to pursue such amendments and put them before the provincial assembly accordingly.

A woman applicant, who sought to become an intervener in the proceedings, argued that her two brothers died due to this hazardous substance. She said they had three daughters each and now she was responsible for their welfare.

The bench issued a notice to the social welfare secretary with a direction to depute any additional director to visit the families in question and submit a proposal for the welfare of minors.

Earlier, the SHC had ordered action against police officers after it came on record that several police officials were also supporting of business of gutka and manpuri.

A DIG had stated that they introduced internal policing within the department and it was headed by an additional inspector general of policce.

The bench observed that this mechanism must be established up to district level and directed the IGP to examine the same and submit details of police officials/officers involved in patronising gutka and manpuri.

On Monday, a DSP assured the bench that a report regarding action taken by internal bureau against police officers for their involvement in such illegal activities would be filed on the next hearing.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2022

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