ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday restrained a local magistrate from proceeding on the bail application of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi -- the alleged mastermind of Mumbai attacks -- until Wednesday, when the apex court will take up the government’s appeal against the suspension of Lakhvi’s detention.
Also on Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued notices to Lakhvi on the appeal filed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), seeking cancellation of bail granted to him by the ATC in the Mumbai attacks case.
A magistrate in Islamabad had to give a decision on the bail application by Tuesday, but a two-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, stopped the judicial officer from passing any order until Wednesday.
The court also issued notices to Lakhvi to answer the contention in the government’s appeal, to be served upon him through the Adiala Jail superintendent, where the accused is currently detained. The court issued the notice with the observation that since there was also an IHC order in favour of Lakhvi, the court was also cognizant of the requirements of the fundamental rights of its citizens. “We will be lost if we deviate from the constitution,” Justice Khawaja observed.
IHC issues notices to alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind on govt appeal
In a joint appeal, the secretary interior on behalf of the federal government, district magistrate Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and Islamabad senior superintendent of police, had sought the annulment of the Dec 29, 2014 IHC order, suspending Lakhvi’s detention orders.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt argued before the court that high court order was not sustainable in the light of earlier Supreme Court judgments and pointed out that Lakhvi was a member of the proscribed outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who was arrested in a terrorism case.
But the court observed that the allegations against Lakhvi regarding his involvement in the Mumbai attacks was not relevant to the present appeal, since the court was only concerned with the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order 1960, under which Lakhvi was currently detained.
The court also asked the AG to provide details about when the LeT was declared a banned organisation and under what sections of the law this was done.
When during the proceedings, the AG pleaded that the court need only to provide relief to the government for 24 hours, the court observed that the law officer’s “anxiety” was unjustified.
When an IHC division bench, consisting of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui and Justice Amir Farooq, took up the government’s appeal on Tuesday, FIA Special Prosecutor Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry contended that the accused was an “influential person” and if his bail was not revoked, he could influence the proceedings in the Mumbai attacks case, pending before an ATC in Islamabad.
The special prosecutor further argued that the prosecutors and the witnesses in the case had been receiving threatening messages and, despite all the odds, the prosecution had produced 50 witnesses before the court so far.
When Justice Siddiqui asked the prosecutor why the trial in this case had not concluded despite the lapse of six years, Azhar Chaudhry replied that prosecution was not responsible for the delay as the accused persons had filed a number of applications during the trial, delaying proceedings unnecessarily.
After hearing initial arguments, the court directed Lakhvi to submit a written reply and adjourned proceedings. The next date of hearing will be fixed by the registrar’s office.
The IHC had granted Lakhvi conditional release by suspending his detention orders, issued by the Islamabad district administration soon after he was awarded bail by the Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) on Dec 18.
A day after the high court’s decision, a civil judge turned Lakhvi over to Islamabad police in a kidnapping case and on Tuesday, a judicial magistrate heard the bail petition filed by Lakhvi’s lawyer in that case, which was registered against him on Dec 29. Golra police had registered the FIR over kidnapping of an Afghan national, Anwar Khan. The judicial magistrate will hear arguments on this matter from Lakhvi’s counsel on Wednesday.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2015