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March 21, 2017

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SC suspends SHC order of sealing liquor shops in Sindh

SC suspends SHC order of sealing liquor shops in Sindh

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday suspended the orders of the Sindh High Court (SHC), sealing all the liquor shops running business in violation of law in Sindh.

A two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, took up the petition of 10 liquor dealers for hearing.The court, after suspending the verdict of Sindh High Court, directed its Registrar’s office to fix the matter before a three-member bench on the next hearing.

The court observed that the regulation of liquor, under Section 3 of Hudood Ordinance of 1979, was not the job of the high court.Asma Jehangir and Shahid Hamid had filed petitions under Article 185 (3) of the Constitution on behalf of 10 wine shops making the Sindh government, Director General provincial Excise and Taxation, Inspector General of Police, Member of National Assembly (MNA) Ramesh Kumar and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) as respondents.

They had prayed before the apex court to set aside the SHC orders and allow the liquor stores to resume their businesses in accordance with the law.On Monday appearing on notice, Asma Jehangir and Shahid Hamid, the counsels representing the liquor dealers, appeared before the bench and contended that their clients had not violated Article 17 of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979.

Asma told the court that the owners of liquor shops had been financially aggrieved due to the passage of such orders from the high court adding that the top court had also suspended such orders in the recent past.

Shahid Hamid, while arguing before the court, submitted that although the matter of five liquor shops was pending adjudication before high court but it ordered to seal 120 liquor shops.

The court observed that the high court had not cancelled the licences. Asma Jehangir, however, replied that the business was stopped for one month. In their petitions, the wine dealers had submitted before the court that over 24,000 people were working in the alcohol retail business in Sindh alone.

They contended that the impugned order dated March 2, 2017 had not only affected the citizens working in the business but their families as well.They contended that there had never been a complaint against the petitioners, before the excise or police authorities, about any violation of terms of the licences granted to them under articles 17 and 18 of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979 or otherwise of the petitioners being engaged in any illegal sale of alcohol.

PML-N lawmaker Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is the petitioner in SHC over the matter and was also present during the course of proceedings, informed the bench that the Hindu religion prohibited consumption of alcohol adding that some liquor shops existed in close proximity to mosques, temples and churches.

He pleaded the court not to lift the ban on liquor shops until the Sindh government filed its reply in the high court regarding the regulation of sale of liquor.The Sindh High Court had given the provincial government one month to evolve a mechanism in consultation with the stakeholders to ensure that only licenced liquor shops could sell wine and liquor to non-Muslims within the permissible quota as part of their religious ceremonies and maintained a record of sales, which should be made available to the public.Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing for three weeks.

 

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