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Plea against verdict on Justice Najafi report: Govt raised legal points that need to be heard: LHC

Plea against verdict on Justice Najafi report: Govt raised legal points that need to be heard: LHC

LAHORE: A full bench of the Lahore High Court on Monday observed that the Punjab government had raised many important legal questions in its appeal against a single bench’s decision that required the government to release report of a judicial inquiry into the 2014 Model Town killings.

However, the three-judge full bench, headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and comprising Justice Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmad, refrained from suspending the single judge’s decision as lawyers for private respondents (heirs of the incident’s victims) gave an undertaking that they would not press for a contempt petition pending before the single bench for the enforcement of the report’s releasing order till a decision on the government’s appeal.

Earlier in the morning, a full bench previously formed under LHC Acting Chief Justice Mohammad Yawar Ali to hear the government’s appeal and other related petitions was dissolved after the judge recused himself from the case.

Initiating his arguments before the subsequent full bench, Additional Advocate General (AAG) Shan Gull questioned the jurisdiction of the single bench to decide the petition about the Model Town inquiry report. He argued that several identical petitions on the same matter were already pending before a full bench that was at the concluding stage as arguments by all parties stood heard at length.

He said the government had neither been asked by the single judge to file a reply or written statement nor put on notice to address arguments on the merits of the case relating to Article 19-A of the Constitution. He argued that the single judge had not allowed the government to establish as to why the release of the inquiry report would be contrary to public order and against the national interest.

The law officer said by issuing the impugned verdict the single bench had preempted the larger bench from taking an independent decision. The impugned judgement, he added, was a classic case of misdirection in law, unreasonable and failed to take into consideration settled laws. He contended that common judicial and procedural proprieties had been violated by the single judge while deciding the case.

AAG Gull said the single bench had not allowed the government to establish a law point that proceedings of a commission of inquiry were not judicial proceedings in nature but merely a fact-finding exercise meant for facilitating the government.

He argued that the government was not bound under the law to disclose findings of the commission because these were not enforceable and the exercise leading to the report was not judicial.

Justice Abid Sheikh observed that the questions raised by the government were of legal importance and needed to be answered. The bench issued notices to the other side and adjourned the hearing till Oct 2. The bench will hear the matter on a day-to-day basis from the next date.

The bench also dismissed as withdrawn six writ petitions filed by different individuals against the composition of the inquiry tribunal and for the release of the Model Town [inquiry] report.

Advocate Khwaja Harris, on behalf of the government, opposed the withdrawal of the petitions, saying the matter was of public interest and the bench had already taken cognisance of it.

But the bench observed that no right of the government would be prejudiced with the withdrawal of these petitions.

The single bench of Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi had on Sept 21 ordered the Punjab home secretary to make the “Justice Najafi report” public and also provide it to the families of those killed and injured in the incident.

Contempt plea

On Monday, Justice Akbar Naqvi adjourned for a day the hearing of a contempt petition against Punjab Home Secretary Azam Suleman Khan for not complying with the order of releasing the Model Town inquiry report.

Advocate Khwaja Tariq Rahim and Barrister Syed Ali Zafar informed the judge that a full bench had been formed to hear the government’s appeal against the decision. They said the hearing should be deferred till a decision by the full bench on the appeal.

Asif Iqbal and other heirs of the Model Town incident’s victims filed the petition stating that a copy of the order issued by the single bench had been communicated and duly served on the home secretary, but he did not comply with the order.

They argued that by not releasing the Model Town inquiry report the home secretary had committed the contempt of the court and was liable to be punished under the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 and Article 204 of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2017

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