South Asia

COVID-19: Pakistan Supreme Court Comes Down Heavily on Government

The country's apex court asked the government to take the situation seriously and come up with uniform national legislation to contain the spread of the disease.

Islamabad: With two judges of the Pakistan Supreme Court testing positive for the coronavirus, the country’s apex court has asked the government to take the worsening COVID-19 situation seriously and come up with uniform national legislation to contain the spread of the disease.

Pakistan has recorded over 108,315 coronavirus cases and more than 2,170 fatalities. On Monday, the country reported a record 105 deaths.

“We are also feeling the heat in this court as two judges have tested positive,” said Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Monday while heading a Supreme Court bench that had taken up a suo motu notice of the prevention of coronavirus.

He, however, did not identify the judges tested positive for the coronavirus.

Justice Ahmed observed, “The difficulty is  that no law has been passed despite the fact that we have been emphasising for adopting the law at the national level which should be applicable to the entire country.”

“The federal government should take this matter seriously and ensure legislation at the national level,” he further said.

The court observed that COVID-19 was a national problem and should be taken at the national level, the Dawn News reported.

“Why the legislatures cannot function when other institutions are functioning,” Justice Ahmed remarked, noting how China and other countries immediately made the law when the virus had started spreading.

“This becomes important more so when the passing of the executive orders to deal with the pandemic has trampled and affected the fundamental rights of people,” the court said.

“You want to stop all activity through the executive order. It is not permissible since it encroaches upon the fundamental rights of the people,” the court said, observing that the government could not just implement Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by holding press conferences.

There have been reports of people in Pakistan flouting social distancing guidelines and crowding public places.

The court wondered why the government could not sit with open arms and find a solution to the current issue through proper legislation.

“Time is of the essence and the federal government does not have much time to deal with the situation,” the bench said.

The court said it doesn’t think that any province will have an issue on agreeing with a uniform law. “All four provincial governments could sit and come out with the law,” it said.

Altering its May 15 direction that shops may not be closed on Saturdays and Sundays due to the Eid festival, the SC bench in its fresh direction allowed the government to make policies in accordance with its strategies to meet the COVID-19 threat.

Instead of the five-judge bench, the SC bench hearing the case on Monday comprised only four judges, who were seated at some distance from each other.