LAHORE: In a detailed verdict issued on the post-arrest bail petition of Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz in the money- laundering reference, the Lahore High Court has observed that an accused person cannot be left at the mercy of the prosecution to rot in jail for an indefinite period.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Sardar Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar and Justice Asjad Javed Ghural had granted bail to Hamza and two employees of his family business through a short order on Feb 24. The NAB had arrested Hamza on June 11, 2019.
The judgement authored by Justice Dogar rules that the inordinate delay in conclusion of trial cannot be lightly ignored provided it is not caused due to any act of omission of the accused as had been held by the Supreme Court.
The bench observes that the record of the trial proceedings reflects that the petitioners along with their counsel attended all hearings except some occasions, adjournments have been sought by their co-accused for one reason or the other and on some occasions due to the absence of presiding officer or due to non-production of the accused from jail.
Bench issues detailed verdict on Hamza’s bail in graft case
The bench also notes some adjournments in the trial due to unavailability of the defence counsel, however, remarks that this cannot be attributed to the petitioners and only few adjournments of negligible numbers were sought by the petitioners and that too for the reason of appearance before the higher forum.
It states even otherwise, the petitioners are not the principal accused, they are on lower pedestal and their case is not on a par with their co-accused Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of the opposition in National Assembly, who is the principal accused in the reference and still behind the bars.
The bench also refers to a report submitted before the SC wherein the trial court gives its tentative assessment that at least 10 to 12 months’ time is required for the conclusion of the trial provided full participation and cooperation of all the accused persons and prosecution is ensured.
It also depicts from the report that the number of trial of the petitioners is the third last case out of a total of 46 cases pending before the trial court and the SC was not of the view to jump over the trial of the petitioners.
“We are of the considered view that it is a fit case whereby bail is to be granted as no exceptional ground exists to deprive the petitioners from their liberty by refusing their post-arrest bails,” the judges wrote in the decision.
Hamza and others are likely to be released from jail on Saturday (today) as the release order by the trial court is yet to be issued.
Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2021