LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday sought an affidavit from Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar asking if Advocate General of Punjab (AGP) Ahmad Awais was under his instructions while giving a statement before the Supreme Court in 2018 about the constitution of a new joint investigation team (JIT) to hold an investigation into the 2014 Model Town incident afresh.
Earlier, Additional Advocate General Malik Akhtar Javed told a seven-judge larger bench that he had been appointed as prosecutor to represent the provincial government in the petitions against the JIT.
Headed by Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan, the larger bench, on last hearing, had refused to hear AGP Awais asking him to seek a permission in writing first from the CM to represent the government in the case.
Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Justice Aalia Neelum, Justice Sardar Sarfraz Dogar, Justice Asjad Javed Ghural and Justice Farooq Haider are the other members of the bench, which seizes with petitions against the constitution of the second JIT by the government in the Model Town incident.
AAG Javed told the bench that all the record of the JIT, its report and minutes of the cabinet meeting that approved the constitution of the JIT had been filed.
Asked about the legitimacy of the AGP’s statement before the SC, Javed said the advocate general had given the statement in the presence of the chief secretary.
To another query, he told the bench that the advocate general had given the statement on the instruction of the CM.
Chief Justice Khan asked the law officer whether the instructions given by the CM could be considered as those of the provincial cabinet as required under the Mustafa Impex case judgment by the SC.
Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, on behalf of the petitioners, said the SC had not ordered any JIT but the government itself announced that it decided to hold a fresh investigation into the case. Later, he said, the government on Jan 3, 2019 formed the impugned JIT in clear violation of the settled laws.
He argued that the trial court had already indicted 47 out of a total of 69 suspects and recorded statements of 86 out of 135 witnesses.
The bench directed the petitioners’ counsel to submit a brief history of the case in writing.
The CJ also directed the law officer to submit an affidavit on behalf of the chief minister to confirm that the AGP was under his instruction before the SC.
“Also tell us if the chief minister wants to invoke his constitutional immunity,” Justice Malik Shahzad asked AAG Javed.
The bench also sought arguments from both sides on multiple legal points i.e. whether a fresh investigation could be held in a case after submission of challan and indictment of the suspects and whether the JIT in question was constituted with the approval of the CM and the cabinet.
Advocate Azhar Siddique sought an adjournment on behalf of Barrister Ali Zafar, the counsel for Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). The bench was told that Mr Zafar was busy due to his election for the senate.
Advocate Siddique also urged the bench to summon records of the previous JITs as well to see whether their formation was legal.
The bench decided that it will hold a day-to-day hearing in the case from March 15 and no unnecessary adjournment will be given to any party.
Several police officials facing trial in the private complaint filed by the PAT had challenged the legality of the new JIT formed by the provincial government led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
A full bench had on March 22, 2019 suspended the new JIT.
AGP Awais had been proceeded against in 2019 under contempt of court charge and CM Buzdar had told the court that a new law officer would represent the government in the case.
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2021