Govt seeks early SC hearing of its plea against LHC order on Shehbaz

Published May 19, 2021
This file photo shows PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. — DawnNewsTV/File
This file photo shows PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: The government rushed to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, seeking prompt hearing of a challenge it had moved the previous day against the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision of May 7 to give conditional permission for medical treatment abroad to former Punjab chief minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif.

“It is most respectfully prayed that CPLA (civil petition for leave to appeal) may graciously be fixed for hearing at an early date in the larger interest of justice,” pleaded a two-page application the interior ministry filed on Tuesday.

The petition concerned an urgent matter and needed a hearing by the apex court at the earliest, the application said, adding that “valuable rights” of the petitioner were at stake.

“And if the petition is not fixed for early hearing, the petitioner will suffer an irreparable loss and injury to its rights,” the application pleaded. “The balance of convenience also lies in favour of the petitioner.”

In the original petition filed on Monday, the interior ministry had pleaded that the single judge in chamber was not justified in law. The petition contended that the high court order was in violation of the law, all canons of justice and cannot be allowed to stand as a precedent.

“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.

“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 and, therefore, the single judge order in chambers is liable to be set aside.”

The petition contended that the single judge in chambers of LHC 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 needed in several cases pending before trial courts.

The respondents 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 Lahore High Court had neither provided an opportunity of hearing to the government nor did it grant it time for seeking instructions from the department concerned.

Likewise, the high court judge in his order did not consider the fact that the LHC’s full bench had earlier rejected a plea by Shehbaz Sharif seeking post-arrest bail on medical grounds. Yet the single judge in chambers allowed him to go abroad on medical grounds, on May 7, without questioning the veracity of the assertion made by the respondent.

The petition cited an undertaking given by Shehbaz Sharif in November 2019 through which he assured the court that his brother, former prime minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, would return home within four weeks.

The respondent had also assured the high court that he would submit periodical medical reports, authenticated by Pakistan’s High Commission in London, to the LHC registrar.

The government argued that although Shehbaz Sharif had stood as guarantor for his brother, he had done nothing for Nawaz Sharif’s return even though the latter was now healthy enough to visit restaurants and other public places in London. “Thus the former prime minister remains an absconder from the courts.”

The single judge in chambers also ignored the fact that Shehbaz Sharif’s other close relatives were also fugitive from the law and living abroad, the petition regretted.

“There is every likelihood that the respondent will join his other absconding family members and is most unlikely to return so as to prolong and avoid his trials and other proceedings,” the government submitted.

It further asserted that no “authorised medical institution” had certified that Shehbaz Sharif required immediate medical treatment abroad.

It was interestingly to note, the government added, that Shehbaz Sharif had himself said he would first stay in Qatar for a few days before going to London.

The respondent was facing trial and he had never approached any trial court for exempting him from personal appearance, the petition recalled.

It went on to allege that the impugned order had been passed in haste without giving an opportunity of hearing to the other side. “This amounts to gross violation of Articles 10-A and 25 of the Constitution.”

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2021

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