HYDERABAD: The Hyderabad circuit bench of the Sindh High Court announced its reserved verdict on Monday, rejecting 262 petitions that sought exemption for their hotel businesses from the operation of the Ehteram-i-Ramazan Ordinance 1981.
The division bench of Justices Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Faheem Ahmed Siddiqui had heard counsel of the petitioners on May 2 and reserved the order.
The court directed all district and sessions judges as well as deputy commissioners to make sure that no restaurant, hotel, beverage stall and tea shop remained open at public places except the ones for which exemption had been laid down under Section V of the ordinance.
The court dismissed all the petitions on the ground they did not fall within the ambit of the exemption and ordered that the deputy commissioners concerned should ensure that no permission was granted to a restaurant, hotel, beverage stall or any other business offering edibles, if they did not come under the said exemption.
The court said that if the petitioners considered they were entitled to benefit from Section V they might approach the DCs concerned and cautioned that the DCs could not delegate such power. He had to conduct complete inquiry before granting such permission, said the judgment.
The court said that copy of the judgment should be communicated to all DCs who would in turn circulate it to their subordinate officers for compliance and guidance.
The petitioners had sought exclusion from the operation of the ordinance on the ground that their eateries were situated at places where they could continue their business in line with the exemption laid down in the ordinance.
The court said that the public place was defined in Section II of the ordinance which included hotels, restaurants, canteen, house, room, tent, enclosures, road, lane, bridge or other place to which public had access and the places exempted from operation of the said ordinance were described in Section V.
The court disagreed with the petitioners that since their hotels and restaurants were situated at bus stops they were exempted under Section V and said that it was not the case because Section V used the word “bus stand” instead of “bus stop” which did not refer to roadside bus stops.
The court said that a bus stand also called a bus bay or bus stance was a designated parking location. The words “within the premises” used in clause (b) of Section V of the ordinance itself indicated that it did not refer to a roadside bus stop or layovers but a separately designated place wherein parking areas for vehicles, waiting areas for passengers and other amenities were provided. Similarly, it said, it was not sufficient for a canteen, restaurant or refectory to claim exemption on the basis of its nearness to a hospital.
The court said that a bare perusal of sections 3, 4 and 5 as well as preamble of the ordinance showed intention of legislature was to promulgate the law to observe sanctity of the holy month and show respect to fasting Muslims.
It was noteworthy that the prohibition imposed by the ordinance applied only during fasting hours and all the eateries were allowed to resume their activities after fasting hours. Since the place mentioned in all petitions did not fall within the exemption given under Section V of the ordinance, therefore all petitions were dismissed, said the judgment.
The court noted that perusal of different sections of the ordinance showed that it was aimed at inculcating respect and honour of the holy month in the minds and hearts of Muslims.