ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday issued notices to Secretary Finance, Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Governor State Bank of Pakistan and the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) in a petition filed by a citizen seeking prevention from private banks for collecting debts settlement during the lockdown. A singe bench of the IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of this matter and directed the SBP and the Ministry of Finance to submit a report explaining whether measures have been taken to alleviate the hardships and difficulties faced by citizens who have obtained loans from the micro finance entities. During the hearing, the petitioner appeared before the court in person and stated that he had obtained loan from National Rural Support Programme. He added that because of the lockdown his business is suspended since several weeks. He further stated that in the prevailing exceptional circumstances, it is not possible for him to pay the installments and several letters have been sent to various authorities but no response has been received as yet. He asserted that despite the exceptional circumstances and lockdown, he is being harassed to pay his installments. He maintained that the prevailing circumstances are beyond his control and that his fundamental rights are being violated by forcing him to do what has become impossible to perform. The IHC bench noted in its order, “The office is directed to issue notices to the Federal Government through the Secretary, Ministry of Finance, the Chairman, National Disaster Management Authority, the State Bank of Pakistan through the Governor and the National Rural Support Programme through its head office in Islamabad. It is noted that the lockdown has indeed suspended all business activities. According to the order, “The questions raised in this petition involve fundamental rights of not only the petitioner but the general public as well.”

It added, “The State Bank of Pakistan and the Ministry of Finance are directed to submit a report explaining whether measures have been taken to alleviate the hardships and difficulties faced by citizens who have obtained loans from the micro finance entities. They shall also explain whether the State owes a “duty of care” and “duty to rescue” towards the small and medium enterprises during the lockdown period. If the answer is in the affirmative then what measures have been taken to discharge such a duty.”

Justice Athar also restrained the respondents from harassing the petitioner till the next date fixed on April 17.

The order said, “The Secretary, Ministry of Finance is directed to nominate an authorized officer well conversant with the relief measures extended to small and medium enterprises and those who have obtained loans from micro finance entities but are facing hardship in payment of installments due to the prevailing exceptional circumstances.

Earlier, the Chief Justice of IHC directed the registrar office for converting an application written on a simple paper into a court petition filed by a citizen seeking prevention from private banks for collecting debts settlement during the lock down.

A citizen Rafiqur Rehman wrote a letter to the Chief Justice IHC stating that the revenue was restricted due to coronavirus and lockdown so that loan payments could not be made during such time.

He pleaded that banks staff after coming at people doorsteps were harassing women due to delayed payments of debts. He requested the CJ for waiving off debts installments or suspension of installments in such a painful time.