ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday rejected the federal government’s plea seeking an increase in its quota for the annual hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs had challenged the decision of Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the apex court, regarding the reduction in hajj quota under government hajj scheme.
The ministry had taken the plea that government quota was fixed at 67 per cent under the Hajj policy but the IHC had reduced it to 60 per cent without taking the correct review of laws and facts.
While the petition was pending with the top court, the federal cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, had agreed to slash the private haj quota from 40 to 33pc, increasing the government quota to 67pc.
Hearing the petition on Tuesday, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar asked the deputy attorney general (DAG), who appeared before the court if there were any legal shortcomings in IHC’s ruling. The DAG responded in the negative and told the court that pilgrimage through government schemes was cheaper.
The court inquired from the DAG how the cabinet could upend a court order. Mahmood informed the court that as per the apex court’s orders, a committee was formed on the issue
During the hearing, the chief justice inquired into the ‘illegality’ of the high court order on which the judgment has been challenged by the government. He then dismissed the government’s appeal.
The chief justice also observed that people should have the facility to perform a comfortable pilgrimage.
Earlier the Ministry of Religious Affairs had petitioned the SC challenging IHC’s decision saying that the Hajj balloting had not taken place due to legal proceedings and if balloting is delayed, then Hajj operation will be affected and detailed information about flight operation has to be provided till May at any cost.
The court was requested to nullify IHC’s decision and suspend it’s order.