PESHAWAR: Notices were released by the Peshawar High Court to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) about a petition questioning the Nov 20 ban on indoor wedding functions in light of the second coronavirus wave.
For the next hearing on November 20, a bench comprised of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah scheduled the respondents, including the NDMA chairman and NCOC director general, to file a joint response to the petition filed by KP Wedding Halls Association president Khalid Ayub and several wedding halls.
Through imposing the ban on wedding functions in banquet halls in the garb of the Nov 7 NCOC letter, the petitioners have asked the court to stop the government from discriminating against them.
They also tried to exclude banquet halls from the restriction list of the government over ‘unauthentic results’.
Marriage halls move PHC against ‘discrimination’
The petitioners have asked the court to order the government, like other industries, to pay them for the damages incurred during the lockdown on March 31-Sept 15.
They advise the court to order the government to come up with a timeline for the novel coronavirus to be eradicated.
The petition’s respondents are the NDMA through its chairman, NCOC through its director general, KP chief secretary, and the commissioner of the Peshawar district.
Appealing to the petitioners, Advocate Babar Khan Yousafzai argued that the NCOC was set up to synergize and express coordinated national action against Covid-19 and enforce the decisions of the Covid-19 National Coordination Committee.
He said that the NCOC’s decision should be focused on proper evidence.
The lawyer claimed that on November 7, the NCOC had released the challenged letter subject to the enforcement of Stage-2 NPIs, in which a ban was imposed only on indoor wedding functions and only outdoor weddings were approved with a limit of 1,000 people to attend.
The NCOC’s act was biassed against the petitioners, he claimed.
The lawyer added that no clear explanation for the change had been given and it was not understood what data the respondents used to keep the petitioners’ business agency, including wedding halls, brands and event halls, under the grey list of Covid-19.
He argued that the respondents were bent on causing disorder and unemployment in the country as a whole and particularly in the petitioner’s business sector, through the contested letter.
Mr. Yousafzai said the banquet and wedding halls were closed because of the coronavirus outbreak between March 13 and Sept 15.
He added that there were only 17 active cases of Covid-19 in the country at the time of the hall closures and that in June alone the cases increased to 6,825 in Peshawar when the banquet halls were closed entirely.
The lawyer said the petitioners had correctly pursued the government-issued SOPs and none of their workers had tested positive for the coronavirus.
He continued that his clients were seriously impacted by the recent pandemic-induced lockdown, but the government was less worried to pay them for their heavy losses.