LAHORE: Punjab government on Saturday challenged the decision of a Lahore High Court single bench for releasing the report of an inquiry held by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi into the 2014 Model Town incident in which several workers of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) were killed in a police operation.

A division bench comprising Justice Abdul Sami Khan and Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi will take up the government’s intra-court appeal (ICA) on Monday.

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

The government in its appeal questioned the jurisdiction of the single bench to decide the petition regarding the Model Town inquiry report, saying the eight identical petitions on the same matter were already pending before a full bench.

The appeal said the government was neither asked by the single bench to file any reply or any written statement, nor was put on notice for what alarmingly turned out to be the final hearing and that the government was not even told to address arguments on the merits of the case relating to Article 19-A of the Constitution.

It said the government was also not allowed an opportunity to establish as to why the release of the report would be contrary to public order and against the national interest.

The government said the impugned judgment by the single bench was a classic case of misdirection in law, unreasonable and failed to take into consideration settled laws. The verdict in question also violated judicial and procedural propriety and had been rendered in gross violation of the government’s right to a fair adjudication, it added.

Questioning the merits of the impugned judgment, the government said the single bench failed to take into consideration the law holding the proceedings of commission of inquiry as not judicial proceedings and merely a fact-finding exercise, purely preventive in nature and only meant for the facilitation of the executive branch of the state.

It further said the single judge failed to take into account the fact that purpose of establishing of an inquiry tribunal was to establish the facts and causes of the subject matter of the inquiry and to make recommendations that may prevent the recurrence of such undesirable events in future. The role of such a tribunal was not to reach conclusions regarding civil or criminal liability of any person, it added.

The government pleaded that the single judge also committed an error of law by not appreciating the context, contours and relevance of a report prepared by an inquiry commission/tribunal inasmuch as the commission was only a fact-finding body meant only to instruct the mind of the government without producing any document of a judicial nature.

The appeal maintained that the government was not required under the law to pronounce one way or the other on the findings of the commission as its recommendations were not enforceable and the exercise leading to the report was not a judicial procedure.

The government asked the division bench to accept its ICA and set aside the impugned judgment passed by the single judge.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2017

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