ISLAMABAD: The high court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by owners of three and four-star hotels in the federal capital against the conversion of their properties into quarantine centres for suspected novel coronavirus (Covid-19) patients.
Sikandar Bashir, representing private hotels in the federal capital, had contended in the petition that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had directed to establish a quarantine centre in a local hotel. Bashir argued that such a direction was beyond NDMA’s authority and urged the court to intervene under Article 199.
“Why does the government not use any of their properties instead of private property,” Bashir argued, adding, “Who will come to this hotel after its transformation into a quarantine centre, why does the government not use the Prime Minister's House as a quarantine centre instead of private property.”
During the hearing on the maintainability of the petition, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked that the measures taken by the federal government and the authority are obviously to safeguard the public at large and their fundamental rights.
“It is an extraordinary situation and it is settled law that the interest of the public at large prevails over individual rights,” the court order read.
“It is in the public interest not to exercise the jurisdiction because it will inevitably amount to interference with the measures taken by the authority and the federal government to meet the challenges that have arisen due to the extraordinary circumstances,” the order read, adding, “It cannot be ruled out that interference by this court with the decisions of the authority and the federal government, may risk jeopardising the interests of the public at large and their fundamental rights.”
“The government can even use my house (in an emergency),” the CJ observed.
Noting that the counsel could not satisfy the court, CJ Minallah said that if the applicant believes the government’s move has caused it a loss, it could claim damages later.
The private hotel’ lawyer said that the NDMA at least tell the court what they wanted to do.
CJ Minallah inquired whether the courts of any other country had interfered in the government’s affairs in such a situation. To this, the petitioner’s lawyer pleaded ignorance over what was happening in other countries.
The court initially reserved the decision and later dismissed it as unmaintainable.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2020.