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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed two senior lawyers to help it decide how to proceed against Science and Technology Minister Mohammad Azam Khan Swati for allegedly misusing his powers to humiliate poor neighbours and forcing the sudden transfer of the top officer of Islamabad police.

Former attorney general Khalid Jawed Khan and senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui, both from Karachi, were appointed amici curiae and would go through the case record to come up with recommendations.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had taken up the case relating to abrupt transfer of Islamabad’s Inspector General (IG) of police Jan Mohammad in the wake of conflicting reports about a dispute between the minister and the police officer. The public came to know about the dispute after the government transferred the IG’s services to the establishment division.

Court intends to invoke Article 62(1)(f) in the case, says chief justice

The two counsel were appointed amici curiae when Barrister Ali Zafar, who was representing Mr Swati, opposed invocation of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution that entails disqualification of a parliamentarian for life, and said “no precedence is available in our judicial history”.

At this Chief Justice Nisar said the court could create a precedence, and added: “Let it be the first example [of its kind] in the country.”

He observed that the real issue in the case was the treatment meted out to the common people by those in power. “Should womenfolk be taken into custody [by police] on a mere compliant that cattle had entered their [rulers’] fields for grazing, when in reality nothing of the sort happened?” asked the chief justice.

Barrister Zafar insisted that Mr Swati played no role in the transfer of IG Mohammad, as it was being considered even before the episode. Chief Justice Nisar, however, observed that the “Swati incident triggered the episode”.

He asked the counsel to get ready to defend his client because the court intended to invoke Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution in the case.

The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Amanullah Kanrani, also urged the court not to make the case “an example because Article 62 is a particularly severe punishment for parliamentarians”.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan told the court that an FIR had been registered and challans would be submitted to the relevant court in a few days. If the minister was found guilty, he would face the consequences.

Meanwhile, in a rejoinder to a report issued by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), Mr Swati said through his counsel that he was not present at the scene of an altercation between his family and his neighbours and as such could not confirm the contents of the complaint against him.

The rejoinder said the minister had no enmity with the accused in an FIR and had no reason to use any influence or misuse any authority to have the accused arrested.

The reply stated that Mr Swati was informed by his son Usman Swati about the incident. Upon receiving this information, the minister naturally got worried about the safety of his family and immediately sought police help so that the situation did not worsen and his family was not harmed.

In panic, he called many people as anyone concerned about his family would do, the statement said, adding that even while calling for help the minister did not influence anyone in police or otherwise misused his office to get an FIR registered or get anyone arrested or to direct anyone to mistreat the accused.

All the actions, including the arrest of the poor neighbours, were taken by police on their own, the statement said.

And despite a compromise between his family and his neighbours, a trial under Article 10A of the Constitution should be conducted at an appropriate forum to determine whether the incident happened as per the FIR or according to the JIT report.

The rejoinder also pleaded before the court that no finding be recorded by the Supreme Court in these suo motu proceedings under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, lest it prejudice the case of anyone in the trial court. The contents of the JIT report itself proved that the minister did not wield any influence or prevail upon the authorities as alleged, the reply said.

If the police officials concerned went to the scene of the incident and were informed of the occurrence they were doing their duty and not working under any influence.

Moreover, no police officer had alleged that Mr Swati used his official position or put him under pressure to act in a particular way. Police dealt with the matter in a routine manner, the reply said.

The minister was only able to speak to the IG after long and tedious efforts, which showed a total lack of misuse of powers, the statement said.

It also denied that Mr Swati had ever encroached upon any CDA land. Rather barbed wires, pillars or any structures on the CDA land, if any, were built long before Mr Swati purchased the property.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018