LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday ordered the provision of free services at shrines, including parking, use of toilets and shoe-keeping; services for which visitors were previously being charged across Punjab.
The order came as a result of a petition by a concerned citizen, Haq Nawaz, in the court of LHC Chief Justice Mohammad Qasim Khan. The court also sought a report of the collection of funds from all shrines within 15 days.
Advocate Azhar Siddique, the petitioner’s counsel, alleged that the Auqaf department was charging “extortion” from people in the name of toilet and shoe-keeping fee. He further claimed that the department then used the funds for the disbursement of salaries among their employees.
The chief justice remarked that if the Auqaf department was unable to fulfil its duty of managing shrines then it should be stripped of the responsibility. Justice Khan also inquired from the government counsel on what grounds were people coming for prayers being charged.
Terming it “incompetence” of the Auqaf department, the chief justice questioned authorities about the legality of stationing a person at washrooms and the main entrance to charge an amount for keeping a pair of shoes in custody.
He remarked that the government must work to provide charity funds for the maintenance of washrooms used by visitors.
“Charging Rs10 to each visitor for use of washroom is tantamount to denying entry to the shrine,” the chief justice remarked. He cited a practise employed by the management of a shrine in Golra Sharif, saying they do no charge visitors for this purpose at all.
The chief justice firther said that he had personally been to Iran recently, and such a practise of charging visitors a fee did not exist anywhere else.