The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday directed the Ministry of Religious Affairs to explain why it had not made a law to regulate Hajj quotas.
It also directed the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to inform the court of any action taken against Hajj tour cartels.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial issued the order on a petition by various tour operators challenging the Hajj Policy 2012 through Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique.
On Wednesday, Siddique argued that the Hajj Policy 2012 violated Articles 3, 4, 18 and 25 of the Constitution. He said the ministry did not have the authority to restrict Hajj quotas to an exclusive group since Article 18 of the Constitution allowed every citizen the freedom of trade, business and profession.
He said the ministry had prepared a draft of Pakistan Hajj Pilgrims Commission law but it was never tabled before the national assembly.
The chief justice remarked, “Had there been legislation, it would not have been so complicated to decide the matter.”
Nasim Kashmiri, the deputy attorney general, said the affairs were being run under the rules of business. However, both the court and petitioner’s counsel disagreed with him.
The counsel said the quota was not allotted on merit as ministry neither checked tax returns submitted by tour operators nor examined the record of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
The chief justice observed the ministry had given clearance to tour operators violating its policy after imposing fines between Rs100,000 and Rs200,000.
The counsel for the Competition Commission of Pakistan said it would cooperate with the inquiry.
The chief justice adjourned the hearing till October 1 and directed the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the CCP to submit replies.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2012.
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