SHC rejects plea against restrictions on congregational prayers


KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Friday rejected the plea filed against the restriction on congregational prayers in mosques and declared that the authorities were taking the measures to ensure the safety of lives amid the spread of a novel epidemic. 

The SHC had on Wednesday reserved the judgement on the petition filed by a citizen Sumaira Mohammadi. She had stated that the government cannot stop citizens from going to the mosques. It is a violation of basic rights, she contended.

On the last hearing, SHC’s Justice Mohammad Ali Azhar had inquired about the policy finalised by the federal and provincial governments regarding congregational prayers at mosques.

When the hearing resumed today, the deputy attorney general Sindh informed the court that the president had convened a meeting with religious leaders on April 18 during which decisions regarding virus restrictions for the holy month of Ramzan would be taken.

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The mosques are not locked, clarified the additional attorney general, who was also present in the court to brief the bench on the steps taken by the government to contain the epidemic.

After the arguments were concluded, the SHC declared the petition as non-maintainable and stated that the government was using its executive powers to ensure the safety of people and the court could not interfere in policy matters.

Prayers can be restricted in the light of decrees issued by the clerics, the court order said.

New SOPs for mosques

Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah Thursday announced that a complete lockdown will be observed in the province tomorrow (Friday) from 12-3pm after a meeting with religious leaders who signaled their support for the decision.

In a meeting with Chairman Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman and scholars from different sects, the CM Sindh said: “I thank all the ulemas for cooperating with us so far. Hopefully, on Saturday, as agreed with the federal government, new SOPs will be drafted for the mosques.”

“Everything will be closed during the lockdown, while mosques will remain open for limited congregation,” he said.

“I have told police to not take strict measures against people going into mosques during the lockdown[…] In the meantime I appeal to the public for cooperation,” he said.

“The masses should refrain from praying in the mosques,” he said.

‘No lockdown for mosques’

Ulema from various schools of thought held a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday to declare that the virus lockdown will no longer be implemented at mosques.

Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rahman said that Tarawih prayers and Itikaf will continue as per schedule. He called on people coming to mosques to practice social distancing.

Mufti Usmani regretted that people had not followed the government’s guidelines of no more than five people offering prayers in mosques.

He called on people to implement the government’s safety precautions but said that for a Muslim, offering congregational prayers in Ramzan was obligatory.

The cleric requested people to leave for their homes and not gather in crowds following the conclusion of prayer.

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