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'Executive's job to enforce judgments': IHC dismisses petition seeking ban on public gatherings

Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Thursday dismissed a petition seeking a ban on public gatherings due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, observing that it was not the court's job to intervene in the enforcement of standard operating procedures (SOPs) after having passed a judgment in this regard.

The petitioner, in his prayer, had said that even though there was a court judgment calling for implementation of SOPs during the coronavirus crisis, public gatherings were still going on unhindered. Rejecting the prayer, Justice Minallah asked the petitioner to go to the parliament and the executive to resolve the issue instead.

In the written verdict issued today, Justice Minallah said the order to implement SOPs had already been given and thus the "court is not inclined to exercise its extraordinary constitutional jurisdiction" if the the executive is unable to enforce it.

"Judgments rendered by judicial forums become meaningless and ineffective in times of crisis when it appears that the executive authorities lack the capacity to implement them in letter and spirit. Judgments, unless respected by the citizens, State institutions and political leadership, remain unenforced and thus rule of law is undermined and consequently it profoundly impacts the confidence of the people in the judiciary," read the verdict.

He also dismissed a part of the petition seeking to restrict Pemra from covering individuals who violate SOPs because it involves elements of freedom of speech and carries "likely implications in the context of the guaranteed fundamental rights under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,1973".

The court said it was up to all members of society to collectively ensure that everyone takes appropriate action in their capacities to ensure the threat of Covid-19 is contained.

Justice Minallah said he understood the concerns of the petitioner since the incidence of Covid-19 had surged within the past few weeks and left the most marginalised vulnerable to harm while aggravating health and economic crises.

Expressing displeasure over the executive's inability to implement the court's decision, Justice Minallah wrote:

"If the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), the supreme forum which represents every citizen, has opted not to play its role nor the elected executive and other political leadership appear to have the will to rise above their differences and unite the nation, then a judgment rendered by this Court relating to the emergency and crisis situation due to Covid-19 is likely to remain unenforced."

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