SC sets aside LHC verdict on Haj Policy 2011

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Setting aside the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) verdict against the Haj Policy 2011, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the government to complete haj arrangements in accordance with the prescribed policy to facilitate intending pilgrims.
A four-member Supreme Court bench of Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, which was hearing a number of pleas filed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and private tour operators against the LHC’s June 6 verdict that declared the Haj Policy 2011 illegal.
The court directed the government to make the policy for the new season and onwards fairly and transparently. The bench also directed that future policies should be made public without claiming any privilege by the authorities concerned.
The court asked the Religious Affairs Ministry to decide the pleas of tour operators in accordance with the law. The LHC had declared the distribution of quota under Haj Policy 2011 illegal in its verdict last month. In their arguments, lawyers for the respondents, including Ahmed Awais, Azhar Siddique and Hamid Khan submitted that that the new hajj tour operators deserved to be allocated quota under the haj policy. Muhammad Akram Sheikh, Aitzaz Ahsan, Ikram Chaudhry and other lawyers for the tour operators who were granted quota, contended that new quota could not be granted at this stage.
Dr Babar Awan, the counsel for the Religious Affairs Ministry had informed the court that the government had implemented major portions of international agreements pertaining to the hajj policy. He had said that the agreements were not only of bilateral significance but also of trans-national value. Awan had submitted that due to the LHC verdict, about 90,000 intending pilgrims had been affected and pleaded the court to set aside the LHC verdict.