Farman Ullah, a cart vendor who had been selling ice cream in front of the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad for over 30 years, was fined 5 lakh rupees and jailed for three months by the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration on Wednesday for violating the ban on plastic bags.
The vendor, who lives in a mud house on Lehtrar Road in Islamabad, used to switch his ice cream cart to a peanut cart in winters to support his five children. Four of his children are physically disabled and their medical expenses are also met from his monthly income of around 8,000 rupees.
He is now imprisoned in Adiala Jail after Senior Special Magistrate Sardar Muhammad Asif sentenced him to a fine of 5 lakh rupees and three months imprisonment with hard labor under Section 46 A of the CDA Ordinance 1960 and Martial Law Regulation No. 63. He would have to serve an additional month in jail if he failed to pay the fine.
Farman Ullah’s lawyer Omar Ejaz Gilani has filed an appeal in the Islamabad High Court against the decision of the Special Magistrate CDA. He believes that ‘declaring an ice cream cart as a violation and sending Farman Ullah to jail for this crime shows the extreme insensitivity of the CDA’.
Gilani learned about his arrest from the people of the nearby slum area where Farman Ullah lives. He first posted about the case on Twitter and asked ‘under what law is such treatment being meted out to a cart vendor?’
He found out after obtaining more documents that Farman Ullah was sentenced under Section A-46 of the CDA Ordinance 1960 for setting up a cart without a license, after which he volunteered to pursue Farman Ullah’s case.
He claimed that ‘a poor man is arrested on the charge of selling ice cream. Then a statement is taken from him during the ‘investigation’ in which he ‘admits’ that he has set up a cart. And during these 24 hours, he is neither allowed to hire a lawyer for himself nor given any hope of a fair trial.’
In his petition, he has taken the position that Farman Ullah’s apparent confession was taken without giving him the opportunity to hire a lawyer for himself. He also wrote in his petition that ‘a cart cannot be considered as an encroachment or violation on the land because a cart is not a kiosk but rather like a moving vehicle that are present in large numbers around the Faisal Mosque.’
According to the lawyers, the maximum fine for setting up a cart at any prohibited place is 400 rupees by law. But Farman Ullah has been fined 5 lakh rupees.
Gilani said that in the history of Islamabad, ‘the CDA has never sentenced any car owner to three months imprisonment and 5 lakh rupees fine for the same crime, but this is done regularly with the cart vendors, which is an example of the CDA’s discriminatory treatment against the poor.’