Govt challenges LHC order letting Shehbaz go abroad

Published May 18, 2021
This file photo shows PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. — AFP/File
This file photo shows PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The interior ministry filed in the Supreme Court on Monday a petition challenging the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) May 7 order to grant conditional permission to Mian Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, to travel abroad for medical treatment.

“The impugned order, being an order passed in violation of law, all canons of justice and norms of equity and fairness, cannot be allowed to stand as a precedent,” the interior ministry argued.

“It is submitted with profound reluctance and regret that such orders, if allowed to remain in field, shall cause severe damage to the impartiality, integrity and reputation of the august institution of judiciary,” the government pleaded.

The petition said no one should be condemned unheard while passing an order, particularly an ex parte mandatory order granting main relief and thereby virtually allowing the entire petition. “The order by a single judge in chambers is liable to be set aside.”

Interior ministry says such orders, if allowed to remain in field, will damage reputation of judiciary

It further said the single-judge LHC bench was not justified in passing an ex parte mandatory order without notice to the government and allowing Shehbaz Sharif to travel abroad as his presence was required in many cases pending before trial courts.

The respondents named in the petition include Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the director general of Immigration and Passports.

The petition argued that the judge should have summoned the record from the departments concerned before passing a judgement.

The high court neither provided an opportunity of hearing to the government nor gave sufficient time to the latter for seeking instructions from the departments concerned, especially the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Likewise, the petition said, the judge ignored the fact that the respondent had sought post-arrest bail earlier on medical grounds, but the plea was not accepted by LHC’s full bench. Yet Shehbaz Sharif was allowed to go abroad on medical grounds without questioning or examining the veracity of the assertion made by him.

The petition recalled an undertaking given by Shehbaz Sharif and pleaded that the single judge in chamber had ignored a November 2019 undertaking in which the respondent assured the court that his brother and former prime minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif would return home within four weeks.

The respondent had also assured the Lahore High Court that he would provide to the registrar periodical medical reports about Nawaz Sharif’s health authenticated by Pakistan High Commission in London.

The petition pleaded that the respondent gave a guarantee that his brother would return after treatment and recovery, but Nawaz Sharif didn’t come back even though he was visiting restaurants and engaging in other activities in London.

Thus the single judge in chamber ignored the fact that the respondent’s close relatives were fugitive before the law and living abroad, the petition regretted.

“There is a likelihood that the respondent (Shehbaz Sharif) will join his other absconding family members and is unlikely to return so as to prolong and avoid his trials.” The petition pleaded that there was no authenticated report prepared by any recognised medical institution certifying that the respondent needed immediate treatment abroad.

Interestingly, the petitioner observed, Shehbaz Sharif had himself said he would first stay in Qatar for a few days and then leave for London.

The petition submitted before the court that Shehbaz Sharif had made an appointment online with a hospital in London, stressing that anyone can make such an arrangement sitting in Pakistan.

The respondent is facing trial and he never approached any court for exempting him from personal appearance, the petition said. It went on to allege that the impugned order had been passed in haste and without giving an opportunity to the government to submit its arguments against the decision.

This amounts to a “gross violation” of Articles 10-A and 25 of the Constitution, the petition concluded.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2021

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