Model Town case second JIT: Law officer earns LHC rebuke for demanding case deferment

Updated November 20, 2019

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LHC bench asks law officer to cite a single judgement that restricted a high court from hearing case pending with SC. — AFP/File
LHC bench asks law officer to cite a single judgement that restricted a high court from hearing case pending with SC. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Advocate General of Punjab (AGP) Ahmad Jamal Sukhera on Tuesday asked a Lahore High Court full bench to defer proceedings on petitions against formation of new Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on the Model Town incident of 2014 as the Supreme Court also took cognisance of the law points involved in the case.

In his arguments against the maintainability of the petitions, Mr Sukhera said the high court should wait for a decision by the Supreme Court. However, the bench headed by Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan asked the law officer to cite a single judgement that restricted a high court from hearing a common matter pending with the apex court without any stay order.

Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Alia Neelum were the other members of the bench.

The bench regretted that the petitions had been pending with the high court for long and proceedings adjourned so many times on the request of the government.

Referring to aggrieved party Idara Minhajul Quran, the bench observed that the high court had been criticised in the media for delaying the decision. “Even today we have taken up the petitions after four months,” said Justice Khan.

Mr Sukhera said there was a possibility that the apex court would resume hearing in the coming month.

Answering a query whether the SC had ordered the formation of the new JIT, the law officer said the apex court had disposed of the petition by Bisma Amjad that had “borne fruit” as the prayer of the petitioner for the constitution of second JIT stood addressed by the provincial government.

At this, the bench observed that the apex court had not touched the merits of the petition and disposed of the same as it bore fruit in light of the government’s undertaking.

“Whether a case not decided on merit by the Supreme Court can be binding on high courts?” the bench asked the principal law officer of the province.

The bench repeatedly asked Mr Sukhera to present a single judgment from the judicial history of the LHC, which could help interpret the outcome of a petition disposed of for having “borne fruit”.

The AGP said he was just trying to say that the matter in hand was sensitive and the high court should let the apex court decide it. However, he admitted that the SC had yet to determine the question of law involved in the case.

Justice Qasim Khan wondered and asked the law officer if there was any bar to the high court to decide sensitive matters.

“We are not going to adjourn hearing anymore. We have to dispense justice,” added the judge.

Earlier, Idara Minhajul Quran’s counsel Azhar Siddique also requested the bench to adjourn hearing till a decision by the SC. However, the bench turned down the request and reminded the counsel that it was his client who often gave statements in the media and accused the high court of delaying the proceedings.

The bench adjourned hearing till Wednesday (today) and asked Advocate Siddique to come up with his arguments.

The new JIT was constituted on Jan 3, 2019 for a fresh probe into the Model Town carnage following a notification issued by the chief secretary. However, the bench with a majority decision of two to one had on March 22 suspended the notification. Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Aalia Neelum were other members of the bench.

Khurram Rafiq and other police officials facing trial in the Model Town case had challenged the legitimacy of the new JIT. They argued that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 did not allow fresh investigation in a case after submission of challan and framing of charges in particular.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019