–CJ issues directive after Careem bike rider pleads that he’s being harassed for payment of loan installment
–Rafiqur Rehman says prevailing circumstances due to viral outbreak have affected his ability to pay
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court Friday called for comprehensive reports of State Bank of Pakistan and Ministry of Finance to ascertain measures taken to alleviate hardships of citizens, in wake of COVID-19, who obtained loans from microfinance entities.
Appearing in person before IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Friday, a Careem bike captain Rafiqur Rehman contended that prevailing circumstances were beyond his control as due to lockdown his bike service has been suspended for several weeks, saying the situation has dented his debt capacity resulting failure to pay off installments of the loan to the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP).
Taking to TLTP, Rafiqur Rehman said that he and his brother obtained Rs150,000 loan from NRSP to construct a house and have paid six installments of the loan but in wake of the COVID-19 he is unable to pay off the debt.
Rehman stated before the court that in the prevailing exceptional circumstance it is not possible for him to pay the installments, adding that several letters have been sent to various authorities but no response has been received as yet.
He said that “despite the exceptional circumstances and lockdown, he is being harassed to pay his installments – the prevailing circumstances are beyond his control and that his fundamental rights are being violated by forcing him to do what has become impossible to perform”.
After a brief hearing of the matter, the chief justice said that the lockdown has indeed suspended all business activities therefore it may have given rise to a situation where the State owes a “duty of care” and “duty to rescue” towards those who have obtained loans from the microfinance entities, such as the NRSP.
While seeking report from the State Bank of Pakistan and the Ministry of Finance, the IHC CJ issued directives to submit a report explaining whether measures have been taken to alleviate the hardships and difficulties faced by citizens who have obtained loans from microfinance entities.
The court also asked them to explain whether the State owes a “duty of care” and “duty to rescue” towards the small and medium enterprises during the lockdown period.
“If the answer is in the affirmative then what measures have been taken to discharge such a duty,” the CJ said in the order.
The court categorically directed the federal finance secretary to nominate an authorised officer well conversant with the relief measures extended to small and medium enterprises and those who have obtained loans from microfinance entities but are facing hardship in payment of installments due to the prevailing exceptional circumstances.
Appointing Advocates Umer Ijaz Gillani and Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) President Haseeb Muhammad as amici curiae in the matter, the court also issued stay order in the case saying till next date of hearing all the respondents are restrained from harassing the petitioner.
Later, the court issued notices to the federal government through finance secretary, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, State Bank of Pakistan through the Governor and the NRSP through its office for April 17.