A full bench of the Lahore High Court headed by Chief Justice Ijaz A. Chaudhry on Monday declared the haj quota allotment illegal and unlawful to private Haj Group Organisers (HGO) as envisaged in the Haj Policy 2011.
Disposing of the petitions moved by Meerab Travels Tour (pvt) Limited and others, the court held the haj policy invalid to the extent that it imposed a condition whereof the award of haj quota had been limited to the persons/companies which had rendered the same service in the year 2010 or in the preceding years. Such restriction is illegal, without lawful authority and of no legal effect, held the bench also comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Umar Ata Bandial.
It directed the respondents including the federal govt and the ministry of haj to receive, consider and decide all the applications of HGOs, including the petitioners and allow them award of quota if they meet the criteria set under the Haj Quota Enrollment 2011. The haj quota enrollment, the court held, did not confine eligibility for quota allotment to only those HGOs that had experience of organising and conducting haj in the year 2010 or the immediately preceding years.
Reading from the minutes of the international agreement between the government of Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the court said it did not show any confining allocation of quotas to previous year operators or those in the preceding years. Nor the agreement bars the govt of Pakistan from considering the new organisers. Whosoever meets the criteria must be considered for quota allocation. The court said: “The respondents are also under duty to ensure competitive selection of HGOs for the haj fairly in accordance with the law without imposing any extraneous condition on the eligibility of qualified persons to compete in such a selection.”
Earlier, arguing case for the petitioners Ahmad Awais advocate said they wanted the govt to follow merit. The CJ said it was true that haj quotas had been given without following the merit.
After hearing the parties, the court passed a short order to invalidate the haj policy to the extent of giving quota to the organisers last year or during the immediately preceding ones (from 2006).