ISLAMABAD: The top court on Friday observed that the federal government was not running any commercial activity by conducting Hajj arrangements; therefore, no legislation would be required for this purpose as envisaged in Article 253 (b) of the Constitution.
The five-judge larger bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmad, while hearing Intra Court Appeals (ICAs) against the impugned judgment has issued a written order of six pages.
Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mahmood appeared on behalf of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, while Makhdoom Ali Khan, Akram Sheikh and Abid Zubairi represented Hajj Organisation Association of Pakistan (HOAP) and Azhar Siddique argued on behalf of the new Hajj tour operators.
The apex court observed that for Hajj tour operators making arrangements for Hajj may be a commercial activity, but for the government it is a facility provided to its citizens for the fulfillment of their religious obligations.
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The bench has maintained its earlier order pertaining to the distribution of Hajj quota to new tour operators in the current season.
The order says that the bench hearing contempt proceeding was not hearing a review petition nor any review was made at all by the appellants.
The court observed that reference to Article 253 (b) of the Constitution is misconceived.
“The said article of the Constitution authorises the enactment of a law to create a complete or partial monopoly over any trade or business in favour of the federal and provincial governments. It is provision, which restricts the fundamental right of trade and business enshrined in Article 18 of the Constitution.”
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However, the order says that the said article cannot be interpreted to restrain the government, federal or provincial, from carrying out any activity or providing any service except through a law creating a complete or partial monopoly in its favour.
The bench, however, maintained its earlier order and asked the federal government to distribute 40 per cent quota to all private tour operators, also known as Hajj Group Organisers (HGOs).
Following the Supreme Court’s 2013 order, the government had allocated 40 per cent Hajj quota to only 742 HGOs, disregarding the top court’s order to consider the new 2,033 HGOs in the 40 per cent quota as well in the current season. It is said that the current allocation of 40 per cent quota to HGOs will not have any effect on the government’s Hajj system.
17,563 more persons successful in ballot for Hajj
On the other hand, the Ministry of Religious Affairs on Friday declared 17,563 more persons successful in its ballot for Hajj under the government scheme.
A ministry spokesman announced that after a ballot on April 28, these persons were kept on a waiting list due to a court case being heard in the Supreme Court.
With the latest Supreme Court’s decision, 60 per cent persons will perform Hajj under the government scheme while HGOs will get a 40 per cent quota.
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The names of the applicants were cleared after the Supreme Court gave its verdict in the case filed by HGOs over allocation of Hajj quota.
The ministry had informed the successful persons by sending SMS and later will also inform them through letters, which will carry details about submission of passports and other travelling documents. This year, 107,526 pilgrims will go to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj under the government scheme.
(With additional input from APP)