ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Tuesday rejected the Haj Policy 2016 and restored 50 percent quota for the private Haj operators.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, after hearing the petitioners’ counsels and law officers of the federation, in its short order restored the quota earlier fixed for the government and private Haj operators as 50 percent each.

The court questioned why the government felt necessary to change the quota for the public and private Haj operators when earlier Haj operations went well with 50 percent quota each.

The chief justice said due to lack of confidence among the institutions, when any step is taken even in good faith, it is seen with suspicion. Justice Jamali said before changing the quota the government should have taken all the stakeholders including private Haj operators into the confidence.

The chief justice remarked that the government itself promised 50 percent quota for private tour operators but it did not fulfill the promise.

During the course of hearing Abid Zubairi, counsel for some private Haj operators, questioned if the government had to formulate policy for Haj then why a committee was constituted for the said purpose.

The government had established a Haj Formulation Committee that comprises representatives from Competition Commission of Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice and Attorney General of Pakistan office.

Muhammad Akram Sheikh, counsel for some private Haj operators, told the court that the government made the changes with mala fide intentions.

However, Rana Waqar, Additional Attorney General, submitted before the court that there was intensive demand from both the houses of the parliament and general public for increasing the government quota from 50 to 60 percent.

He pleaded that there was no mala fide intention on the part of the government in increasing its quota from 50 to 60 percent and reducing the quota of private Haj operators from 50 to 40 percent.

Waqar said the step was taken in order to provide cheaper Haj package to maximum pilgrims. He said it is the fundamental constitutional obligation of the state to have a monopoly and the government did not take the step with mala fide intention.

The court after hearing the counsels for the petitioners and the federation rose for some time, ruling that a short order would be announced shortly and later on announced the verdict, rejecting the government 2016 Haj policy and restoring the quota of public and private Haj operators 50 percent each.

The religious affairs ministry last Friday postponed the Haj balloting under government scheme.

Minister of Religious Affairs, Sardar Muhammad Yousaf, in a statement, said that the step had been taken in view of the petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Haj policy of 2016.

He said the balloting had been postponed to ensure transparency and beyond any suspicions and doubts.

The ministry received 280,617 applications out of which balloting will be held.

Earlier, the Supreme Court directed the concerned ministry not to reveal names of selected applicants until the verdict was announced in the case.