Is Supreme Court Crossing Limits In Ordering Reopening Of Markets?

Supreme Court of Pakistan -

By Ahmed Saeed

Markets and shopping malls have been reopened all across the country after the Supreme Court gave a decision in a suo moto case hearing regarding the measures taken to deal with coronavirus.

While earlier, markets were allowed to open only for the first few days of a week, they are now to remain open for the entire week – weekends included.

But following this decision by the Supreme Court five-judge bench, including the Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad, politicians and lawyers have expressed their concern over the verdict.

Chairman Pakistan Peoples’ Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted that he did not want to believe that the superior judiciary would pass any judgment endangering the health and lives of the people of Pakistan. He hoped that judges would give ‘judgments based on facts & medical realities’.

As the court criticized Sindh for not opening up its markets, the provincial minister for education said that today the court was angry at them for not opening their markets; after a few days, they would also hold Sindh responsible for the shortage of beds in hospitals.

Meanwhile, senior lawyers and bar representatives consider the court decision an intervention in the domain of the executive.

President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Qalb-i-Hassan said that there could be a spike in the coronavirus cases after the judicial order. He said that the decision to open markets should have been left on the shoulder of each of the provincial governments.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed said that every year nearly 1000 people die of pollen allergy only in Islamabad then why was the government spending so many resources [on fighting] coronavirus only.

But the former SCBA president Justice retired Rasheed A Rizvi said that such remarks by the CJP were completely irrelevant and did not make any sense. He said that the court should have called doctors’ bodies and held a consultation with them before passing any judgment.

Senior lawyer and president Peshawar High Court Bar Association Abdul Latif Afridi said that the superior courts should avoid interfering in administrative affairs.
“The Supreme Court or high courts should not use their suo moto powers to intrude into the executive’s domain because it disturbs the scheme of the trichotomy of power that is enshrined in the constitution,” said Afridi.

However, the vice president of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has a different opinion on the matter. Abid Saqi thinks that the government has failed to support citizens during the lockdown hence the Supreme Court’s decision to reopen markets and malls was a step in the right direction.

“In my view, in light of facts, this decision is worth praising and we should slowly move towards normalcy and opening up of the businesses to decrease poverty and unemployment,” said Saqi.