Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court today suspended an order by the Sindh High Court to seal 120 liquor shops for allegedly engaging in illegal sale of wine in the southern province of Sindh.
A two-member bench of the court consisting of Justice Ijaz Afzal and Justice Mazhar Alam admitted a petition filed by the owners of liquor stores.
The court accepted the argument of petitioners' lawyer who said that the liquor shops were licensed and taxed by the government and were working within law.
While setting aside the March 2 order of the Sindh High Court (SHC), the court ruled that that the SHC cannot issue such an order when a law governing the sale of liquor across the country already exists.
The bench also said it will hear the wine shop owners' petition within three weeks.
Justice Afzal noted that the sale of alcohol had been banned in the country in 1979 and if someone was violating the law, he should be punished.
He maintained that sale of liquor as allowed under the law cannot be disallowed.
Ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Hindu lawmaker Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, in his arguments said the Hindu religion prohibits consumption of alcohol.
Vankwani also said that his religion was being misused to sell liquor in the country.
Under the 1979 law, the sale of alcohol is only permissible to non-Muslims and the SHC had held that 120 shops were engaged in the illegal sale of wine and liquor as they fail to ensure that it was sold to only non-Muslims.
It is for the second time that the Supreme Court intervened to allow operation of liquor shops, once again rejecting an order by the SHC.
Last year in November, the apex court restored sale of liquor by designated shops allowed to operate under special permits.