The Balochistan High Court (BHC) on Friday directed the provincial education department to conduct drug tests of all male and female students studying in educational institutions across the province while hearing a petition on increased drug use.

Once more, we are faced with a small bench composed of a few individuals ordering sweeping policy actions without much consideration for the practicality of their orders or their effect. How these tests will be administered across the province, and what resources will be used is a question mark. Rather than assuming to be all powerful moralising arbiters of justice like the viziers of old, the senior judiciary is required to simply apply the written law to the situation before them and do that justly.

It is undeniable that increasing drug use among students is a troubling issue – one that must be dealt with. But it must be dealt with by the competent authorities in keeping with their powers. In this case it is the legislature, and the government departments who oversee drug enforcement, not a court of law. “Drug use among students” is such a loosely defined issue it is unfathomable that the BHC took it upon itself to hear the petition. For a court to hear a petition there must be a specific abuse of power by the government, a specific breach of the constitution or a specific crime – all already defined under law. A court is not authorised to generally hear the ills of society and prescribe the solution that comes to their mind.

This has become a trend among the judiciary, a competition of sorts it seems. One judge after another spends precious time listening to petitions filed by fame-seeking individuals on subjects like “indecency on television”, “blasphemy on social media” and now “drug use among students” – all of them open ended issues and all of them with a moral tinge. The honourable justices then use this opportunity to deliver their best moral oratory and make grand orders that will “fix” the problem in their estimation, when there are no clear practical means to do so.

Making policy decisions for the government or trying to solve society’s problems is not the judiciary’s job, and in trying to do it they make judgements that the government has to follow, no matter how vague. Take this one: What will we test each student for? Will we criminally charge them? How will we insure that this one-time drug test will keep them from using again? How will any of this stop the production and distribution of drugs?