KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Wednesday dismissed an application seeking to halt the proceedings of Perween Rahman’s murder trial until an order was passed by the Supreme Court on her sister’s plea for re-investigation of the case by the Federal Investigation Agency.
Earlier, the same court had dismissed an application moved by the slain activist’s sister pleading to summon and record testimonies of the members of a Supreme Court-appointed joint investigation team (JIT), which had detained and grilled some of the accused involved in the murder.
Five detained accused — Abdul Raheem Swati, his son Mohammad Imran Swati, Ayaz Shamzai alias Swati, Amjad Hussain Khan and Ahmed Khan alias Ahmed Ali alias Pappu Kashmiri — have been charged with the murder.
ATC rules indefinite adjournment of a criminal case is against normal trend of jurisprudence
Ms Rahman, head of the Orangi Pilot Project, was gunned down near her office in Orangi Town on March 13, 2013.
On Wednesday, the ATC-XIII conducting trial inside the judicial complex in the central prison pronounced its verdict reserved earlier after hearing arguments from the defence, prosecution and the counsel for the complainant.
The judge passed the order while disposing of an application jointly filed by Advocate Salahuddin Panhwar, who represented the complainant, and Assistant Prosecutor General Ghulam Murtaza Maitlo for the state under Section 344 (power to postpone or adjourn proceedings) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) read with Section 32 (overriding effect of the act) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
After considering the arguments of the prosecutor and the counsel for the complainant and the accused, the judge wrote in his order that admittedly the matter pertained to 2013 and could not be finalised for one or the other reason.
The accused were behind bars since the date of their arrest and their bail applications had also been dismissed by the trial court as well as the high court, the court added.
It said there were directions of the Sindh High Court to conclude the matter within two months and the trial court had taken efforts and examined all the witnesses cited in the calendar of witnesses and side of the prosecution had been closed.
The judge noted that the statements of the accused under Section 342 (power to examine the accused) as well as 340(2) (right of person to be defended and his competency to be a witness) of the CrPC had been recorded.
He noted that the complainant’s counsel moved an application requesting to summon and record statements of the members of the JIT, but the application was dismissed.
Therefore, the complainant challenged the same order by filing a revision application before the SHC besides moving an application with the SC with a request to entrust investigation of the case to an honest and impartial officer of the FIA.
She also filed the present application with the trial court requesting it to indefinitely adjourn the matter or stay further proceedings in the case, arguing that if the present application was disposed of the other applications pending before the SHC and the SC would become infructuous.
Opposing the plea, Advocate Shah Imroze Khan, defence counsel for accused Imran Swati, contended that the plea was not maintainable for passing any order as the relief claimed by the complainant was not within the jurisdiction of the trial court.
“The case cannot be stayed or adjourned sine die without any restraining order by the superior courts,” the counsel said, adding that there were directives of the SHC to the trial court to conclude the matter within two months.
The trial was near its end and the complainant intended to make the matter linger on, on one or the other pretext, he said and pleaded to dismiss the application.
The judge ruled that there was no specific direction of the Supreme Court regarding staying the proceedings and observed: “The adjournment of a criminal case indefinitely is against the normal trend of criminal jurisprudence and it should generally be discouraged, as held in numerous cases by the superior courts that the policy of criminal law aims at bringing accused persons to justice as speedily as possible, so that if they are found guilty, they may be punished and if they are found innocent, they may be acquitted and discharged.”
The judge ruled that no reasonable ground was shown by the complainant’s counsel and in the light of circumstances, “I do not find any merit in the instant application and the same is hereby dismissed”.
Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019