PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has issued notices to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) over a petition challenging the ban on indoor wedding functions from Nov 20 in light of the second wave of coronavirus.

A bench consisting of of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah fixed Nov 20 for the next hearing asking the respondents, including the NDMA chairman and NCOC director general, to file response to the petition jointly filed by KP Wedding Halls Association president Khalid Ayub and several wedding halls.

The petitioners have requested the court to stop the government from discriminating against them by enforcing the ban on wedding functions in banquet halls in the garb of the Nov 7 NCOC letter.

They also sought the removal of banquet halls from the government’s restriction list over ‘unauthentic data’.

Marriage halls move PHC against ‘discrimination’

The petitioners also requested the court to direct the government to compensate them for the losses suffered during the Mar 31-Sept 15 lockdown like other sectors.

They pray the court to direct the government to come up with a time frame for the eradication of the novel coronavirus.

The respondents in the petition are the NDMA through its chairman, NCOC through its director general, KP chief secretary and Peshawar division’s commissioner.

Advocate Babar Khan Yousafzai appeared for the petitioners and contended that the NCOC was set up to synergise and articulate unified national action against Covid-19 and implement the decisions of the National Coordination Committee on Covid-19.

He said the decision of the NCOC should be based on proper data.

The lawyer said the NCOC had issued the impugned letter on Nov 7 subjecting the implementation of Stage-2 NPIs, wherein a ban was imposed only on indoor wedding functions and only outdoor weddings were allowed with permission for the attendance of 1,000 persons at maxiumum.

He contended that the act of the NCOC was discriminatory against the petitioners.

The lawyer added that no particular reason had been provided for the move and it was not known that what data were used by the respondents to keep the business entity of the petitioners, including wedding halls, marques and event halls under the grey list of Covid-19.

He claimed that through the impugned letter, the respondents were bent on creating anarchy and joblessness in the country as a whole and particularly in the sector of the petitioners’ business.

Mr Yousafzai said the banquet and wedding halls remained closed from Mar 13 to Sept 15 over the outbreak of coronavirus.

He added that at the time of hall closures, there were only 17 active cases of Covid-19 in the country and that in June alone, the cases surged to 6,825 in Peshawar when the banquet halls were completely closed.

The counsel said the petitioners had been properly following the SOPs issued by the government and none of their employees had tested positive for the coronavirus.

He added that the previous pandemic-induced lockdown had badly affected his clients but the government was least bothered about compensating them for their heavy losses.