Clarification: No Blanket Ban On Eating In Public During Ramzan
Social media was recently abuzz with a controversy surrounding the law prohibiting eating or drinking in public places during the month of Ramzan. Many people were unhappy about the news suggesting that those who were unable to fast due to health and other issues would be imprisoned or fined for eating or drinking in public during Ramzan. The same matter was also highlighted in 2017 at the start of Ramzan and gained the attention of both national and international media.
This writing aims to clarify what the law actually says on the matter as it has been misinterpreted by the public. The law governing this area is the Ehtram-e-Ramzan Ordinance 1981, the purpose of which is to provide measures to respect the sanctity of the month of Ramzan. The relevant section dealing with eating or drinking in public places is Section 3, which is reproduced below:
Section 3: Prohibition of eating, etc, in public places –
(1) No person who, according to the tenets of Islam, is under an obligation to fast shall eat, drink or smoke in a public place during fasting hours in the month of Ramazan.
(2) Whoever contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees, or with both.
The law makes it unlawful for anyone who according to the tenets of Islam is under an obligation to fast, to eat or drink in public. This essentially means that this law is not applicable to people who are not under an obligation in Islam to fast. Elderly people, pregnant or menstruating women, people facing health issues, children, non-Muslims, and travelers, etc. can lawfully eat or drink in public as there is no law against it.
An amendment to this law was made in 2017 to increase the fine from PKR 500 to PKR 5,000 for individuals who were under an obligation to fast and were found eating, drinking or smoking in public.
While there is general criticism by the public on whether such a law is controversial and whether it should exist in the first place, the focus of this short article is solely to provide legal clarification on what the law actually states.