When it comes to Basant, what do the courts want? It is difficult to say. Different judges have given different observations in various petitions filed to force the government to lift the ban on kite flying.
Though it was the Supreme Court that took a suo motu notice against killings in kite-flying related incidents in 2005 and banned Basant rather than allow the government to frame strict rules and regulations to avoid loss of human life, the judges during the final hearing of the case in March last year appeared quite softened on the matter.
Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, for example, remarked that the deaths in a game should not be a reason for banning the sport. The judge was of the view that cricket could not be banned because somebody died due to a hit.
But the judges, like the government, were careful not to order the administration to lift the ban on kite-flying. Who would want to accept responsibility in such a situation, after all? The ban was placed through an executive order and hence should be removed by the executive authority but only after ‘ensuring strict implementation of the Punjab Prohibition of Kite Flying Ordinance 2001’.
The law empowers the Nazim (now commissioner) of a district to allow kite-flying and sale of permissible kite-flying material for a period of 15 days during spring season in a year.
Every year with the start of spring season, the Lahore Kite Flying Association and other stakeholders approach the high court to seek permission for kite-flying under the law. However, judges of the Lahore High Court always reject the pleas relying on the reports of the provincial and city district governments.
In 2009, LHC former Chief Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, hearing a petition against possible lifting of the ban on kite-flying, had observed that the government should not allow the activity at the cost of innocent lives.
Another former Chief Justice, Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, had dismissed a similar petition in 2010 with an observation that the court could not permit licenses to kill in the name of Basant festival as it had become a dangerous activity. At that time the court was also informed that Wapda had accrued revenue losses of billions of rupees besides damage to grid stations due to the copper wire used in kite-flying.
A fresh petition moved by the association is pending before the LHC in which the government has already given its view. Secretary local government told the court that lives of the masses could not be put at risk for the pleasure of only a handful of people. He said massive loss of life had forced the government to put a blanket ban on kite-flying.