ISLAMABAD -  The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the federal government to ensure transparency and merit in allotting Hajj quotas to fresh and old Hajj Group Organisers (HGOs) in accordance with its judgment of 2013.

A five-member bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmad was hearing the petitions of private HGOs.

Ministry of Religious Affairs Secretary Khalid Masood Chaudhry said that it would not be possible to allot quota to all 2,033 HGOs. He submitted that the government will implement the apex court verdict in letter and spirit.

However, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh expressing his dismay said that “you should get a certificate of the apex court for violating its order”. The judge said that the government did not pay heed to redress the situation since 2013, adding that the court could not grant four decades for the implementation of its order.

The secretary told the court that the government already sent the list of the HGOs to the Saudi government on May 28, and sought more time for the implementation of the court’s directives.

During the proceedings, counsel for HGOs told the bench that many officials of the religious ministry were operating Hajj tour companies, adding their clients were ready to furnish primary evidence in this regard before the court.

Upon that Justice Azmat remarked that “at least the decision makers should have fear of God in the Hajj matters”. The judge said that the religious ministry was determined not to implement the court verdict. He further said that the court would have to consider criminal proceedings against those ministry officers who were running private Hajj tour companies.

The HGOs counsel told the bench that the government has failed to implement the apex court verdict of 2013 by alloting the quota on merit. Upon this, Justice Azmat said that now the apex court will get its order implemented in the matter.

After the hearing arguments from both sides, the bench disposed of all the applications and directed the government to allot Hajj quota to fresh and old Hajj group organisers transparently.