Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on Dawn.com.

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience

.

Forty-five days' liberty lost

June 03, 2001

MARCH 28, 2001: Notice received by Navroze Patel. Case No.100/98 FIR NO.58/98, FIA, CBC, KYC. In the Special Court (Offences in Banks) at Karachi, Sindh, at old Circuit House Adjacent to American Consulate Karachi (Criminal Jurisdiction) XXXI Summons to witnesses (See Section 69 252). Addressed to N S Patel s/o Savak Behramji Patel, chief cashier ANZ, Allama Iqbal Road Branch KYC, R/o 3 Lodha Homes, Parsi Panchayat Wadi, Johar Street, KYC.

"Whereas complaint has been made before me that Wilayat Noor Khan u/s 406/PPC has (or is suspected to have) committed the offences of and it appears to me that you are likely to give material evidence for the prosecution. You are hereby summoned to appear before this court on the 2nd day of April 2001 at 8.30 am in the forenoon, to testify what you know concerning the matter of the court, and you are hereby warned that if you shall without just excuse neglect or refuse to appear on the said date a warrant will be issued to compel your attendance. Given under my hand the Seal of the Court this 10th day of March 2001. By Order."

April 2, 2001: For the first time in his life, Navroze Patel entered a courthouse. He appeared before Judge Ekram Hussain Jafri. He was appalled by what he saw and heard. His idea of a court was what he had seen on his television screen whilst watching Perry Mason defending a client. The others concerned and called were not present. The case was adjourned to May 14, 2001.

April 11, 2001 : An FIA man, Rafiq Moghal, the investigating officer of the case, appeared at Navroze's home and asked him to accompany him to the FIA office, without specifying why. On arrival there, at Baloch Colony, he was told that he had been arrested and he was put in the lock-up. He was kept overnight. The following morning he was allowed to make a telephone call, which he did to a friend and neighbour, also working in ANZ Grindlays, and informed him that he was being held by the FIA.

Thereafter, he was handcuffed and taken to the court of judge Jafri. In court, Rafiq Moghal of the FIA had a conversation with the judge which Navroze was unable to hear. What he did hear was the judge ordering that he be remanded and sent to Karachi Central Prison and produced again in his court on April 25.

April 25, 2001: He was not taken to court.

I visited him that day in jail and was amazed to find him calm and composed, not at all worried by what was happening to him. He turned out to be an Old Virbaijeeite, a former student of the Bai Virbaijee Sopariwalla Parsi High School from where he had matriculated in 1970. The principal during his school years was Mrs Dinoo Mistri and he was sent out into the world and told : This is your world, go and live in it.

We sat down and he related to me the chain of events which had brought him to prison. On May 29, 1998, the day after Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif exploded the Bomb, the cashiers in his bank were instructed to transfer all the foreign currency notes they held to the chief cashier, Navroze. Whilst handing in his currency notes, one cashier, Wilayat Noor Khan, was $ 20,000 short of what he should have had and this was duly recorded and reported to the branch manager. In August 1998, the bank lodged an FIR against Wilayat Noor Khan in which Navroze's name did not figure.

I checked with the bossman of Standard Chartered Grindlays (ANZ has since been bought over) who unequivocally certified "that Mr Navroze Z. Patel was with ANZ Grindlays Bank from June 16, 1975, to November 15, 1999. In 1999, he opted for the voluntary retirement scheme. At this time he was working in the capacity of assistant manager, sales and service, cash department, at the Allama Iqbal Road Branch based at Karachi. During his tenure with us, we found him honest, hard-working, and efficient. We have not had nor have any claim or charge against him. We wish him success in his future endeavours." The bank also gave me a photocopy of the letter which teller Wilayat N. Khan had written to his ANZ manager on June 2, 1998 : "Subject - Loss of $ 20,000. I would like to inform you that it has been noted on 2nd June, 1998, at about 5 pm while delivering my foreign currency cash to my chief cashier that $ 20,000 was missing from my teller box."

Artist and social worker Jimmy Engineer, a neighbour of Navroze and a member of the helping gang, asked his friend, famous criminal lawyer Khwaja Naveed, to apply for bail.

April 26, 2001: Khwaja Naveed appeared before judge Jafri who informed him that he had no time to hear the bail application and adjourned the matter to May 15.

I was not at all surprised by the behaviour of the judge and his concern for the liberty of his fellow man. I asked Khwaja to request Judge Jafri to reject the bail application which would enable us to move on to the High Court. Jafri refused, but ordered that the bail application hearing be brought forward to May 5.

May 5, 2001: Navroze was taken to court handcuffed to another man under trial. The FIA man had no objection to the grant of bail. Judge Jafri rejected the bail application.

May 14, 2001: Navroze was taken to court, this time handcuffed to two others undergoing trial. The case against Wilayat was not heard. It was adjourned to May 30.

May 18, 2001: Khwaja Naveed had managed to fix a bail hearing at the Sindh High Court. It came up for hearing but no FIA man was present, so the hearing was adjourned to May 22.

May 22, 2001: The presiding High Court judge, realizing the importance of a bail application and concerned about the liberty of his fellow man, granted bail. The court decided that Navroze would have to provide security for an amount which happened to be half the sum of his golden handshake.

May 25, 2001: Navroze was released from Karachi Central Prison. It had taken Jimmy Engineer and his helpers three days and much hassling to get the paperwork done and they had to pay far more than the official fees to do so.

July 4, 2001: American Independence Day, when we will all remember the famous words: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The case against Wilayat is to be heard in judge Jafri's banking court and Navroze will have to appear.

Who will pay, and what can they pay, for the loss of 45 days of liberty in the life of Navroze Patel, for his suffering and bewilderment? I can make no comment for at present I myself still have against me a charge of contempt of court.

In 1999, the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, having been alerted by one of his learned brothers that my utterances on PTV were prima facie contempt of court, summoned me to the Supreme Court to show cause why I should not be proceeded against for contempt of court. I duly appeared before a bench of 14 honourable judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, headed by the Chief Justice, and on October 26, 1999, was formally charged by them with "having committed contempt of this Court and the High Courts of the Country and rendered myself liable to punishment under Article 204 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan read with sections 3 and 4 of the Contempt of Court Act 1976". I was called upon to show cause why I should not be punished and was asked if I pleaded guilty. My response was: No.

The hearing of the case was fixed for December 13, 1999. An adjournment was sought as I had, as is always said in Pakistan, 'rushed' to the States for treatment for my chronic heart problem and in fact on that day was lying in the George Washington Hospital in Washington DC. The case was adjourned to the first week of March 2000, by which time I expected to be back in Pakistan.

The case has still to be fixed, heard, and disposed of.