KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has expressed concerns over holding an event under the garb of Aurat March without the permission of district administration and has ordered the Karachi commissioner to look into the matter and initiate an inquiry.

The SHC also asked the commissioner to take appropriate action against delinquent officials if any deliberate negligence was found on the part of district management for the prevention of such event.

A two-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, passed such directives while disposing of a petition filed against the Aurat March and a dance competition.

The bench in its order said the official respondents had given an undertaking to the effect that in future, no permission will be granted to hold such event/function or march which may violate any constitutional provision, law or may have any element of promoting un-Islamic, immoral and objectionable events or performances.

Citing the ministry of interior, chief secretary Sindh, home department, deputy commissioner (South), Arts Council of Pakistan (ACP) and others as respondents, eight female lawyers had moved the SHC in March, asking it to restrain respondents and other organisations from illicit and immoral activities including dance function, carrying immodest and rebellious slogans on placards during Aurat March, a public demonstration held annually in various cities to mark International Women’s Day.

At the outset of the hearing, DC South filed comments while counsel for ACP as well as a provincial law officer submitted that in view of detailed comments filed by the DC, it had been clarified that there were two different events in the subject matter as one was held at ACP, which was a family event wherein there was no element of any kind of immoral activities whereas the second event was regarding Aurat March, which had no nexus with the programme held at the ACP.

An assistant advocate general also contended that as per the comments filed by official respondents, no permission was granted for organising Aurat March on March 8, this year either within the close vicinity of the ACP Karachi or even within the limits of South district while pictures attached with petition did not reflect the date and exact location of such women march.

However, the law officer and the official respondents have assured the bench that no such permission will be granted to anyone under the garb of any march which may have any elements of obscenity/immorality and promote un-Islamic culture in violation of the constitution and relevant laws.

In the view of the factual position as emerged from comments filed by respondents as well as the undertaking, the bench in its order said that the petitioners were satisfied and, accordingly, the petition stood disposed of in view of such comments and undertaking.

“However, we may express our concerns that in the absence of any permission granted by the district management, how such event in the garb of “Aurat March” wherein, immoral, indecent and even vulgar banners and play cards were displayed, was organised, and as to why it was not prevented/stopped by the concerned district management/police, which has given cause of grievance to the petitioners representing large number of residents of Karachi and citizens of Pakistan who are Muslims and observe Islamic culture and values”, it added.

“We would direct the commissioner of Karachi to look into the matter and hold inquiry to this effect, and if it is found that such event was organised on 08.03.2024 without permission of concerned authorities why it was not prevented/stopped and if it is found that there was deliberate negligence on the part of district management, appropriate action may be taken against such delinquent officials in accordance with the law”, the bench in its order concluded.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

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