ISLAMABAD: Former interior minister Rehman Malik is still in hot water as on Tuesday the Islamabad High Court (IHC) referred back for review the matter related to registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against him over alleged rape of US blogger Cynthia Dawn Ritchie.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Nasir Javed Rana, in his capacity as Justice of Peace, had dismissed a petition filed by Ms Ritchie under sections 22-A and 22-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (CrPC), seeking a directive for police to register a criminal case against Rehman Malik.
The counsel for Mr Malik contended that the ADSJ was competent to direct the in-charge of the police station concerned to investigate the allegations. He further contended that on the basis of such investigations, the ex-officio Justice of Peace was empowered to record his findings and dismiss the petition.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that the arguments advanced by the counsel for Rehman Malik were not in consonance with the principles and law enunciated by the Supreme Court.
The court noted that the Supreme Court had elaborately highlighted the law regarding scope of jurisdiction vested in an ex-officio Justice of Peace.
According to Justice Minallah, “the functions were quasi-judicial in nature because the ex-officio Justice of Peace is required to entertain applications, examine record and after hearing the parties pass orders and issue directions with due application of mind”.
The scope of jurisdiction and powers of the Justice of Peace are confined to issuing appropriate directives for registration of a criminal case and to check neglect, failure or excesses committed by police, he pointed out.
The court order states: “It appears that the learned Ex-Officio Justice of Peace, while passing the impugned order, had not taken to consideration the principles and law enunciated by the august Supreme Court.”
Subsequently, Justice Minallah set aside the ADSJ’s order and referred the matter back to him.
The court asked the district and sessions judge “to assign the matter to a designated Ex-Officio Justice of Peace, other than the judicial officer who had passed the impugned order dated Aug 5, 2020”.
Justice Minallah set a three-week deadline for a decision on the matter.
Taking up another matter related to the validity of Cynthia Ritchie’s visa, the court read out a recent order of the interior ministry.
The deputy attorney general submitted a copy of a recent order passed by the interior ministry’s secretary. The court noted that the secretary had not made reference to any law or policy and appeared to have solely relied on the statement of Ms Ritchie.
The order is self-contradictory and in conflict with the previous order, the IHC observed.
The secretary conceded in his order that Cynthia Ritchie was granted a work visa in violation of policy and laws.
The court observed that the interior secretary had been evasive in recording his findings regarding the crucial question: whether a foreign national visiting Pakistan on the basis of a business visa was entitled to give statements of a political nature.
The official was asked about the legal standpoint if the statements were made against a holder of public office, eg the prime minister or any state institution.
He candidly answered that it would have been illegal and such a person would have been taken into custody and deported.
The official was unable to justify the inability of the federal government to inquire whether Cynthia Ritchie was genuinely engaged in pursuing business interests permissible under the law, the court order noted.
An official of the interior ministry, in reply to a query, unambiguously stated that the order passed by the secretary in this case could not become a precedent because of its adverse consequences regarding similar cases in future.
The manner in which the interior ministry has been assisting the court is not in consonance with the principles of good governance. The order passed by the secretary raises serious questions. It appears that either the ministry is not aware of the law and policy or for reasons known to it only is ignoring them in this case. Laws and policies must be certain and demonstrably applied in each case fairly and without discrimination, the court order stated.
The court gave a final opportunity to the federal government to render proper assistance, noting that its conduct so far had raised questions of public importance having consequences relating to enforcement of fundamental rights.
“In case an officer conversant with the applicable laws/policy does not appear on the date fixed, then this court will consider summoning the Secretary, Ministry of Interior, in person,” the order said.
Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2020