SHC asks agencies to depute focal persons in missing persons’ cases

Published August 29, 2021
A view of the Sindh High Court building. — AFP/File
A view of the Sindh High Court building. — AFP/File

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has expressed resentment over an inordinate delay in locating and recovering missing persons and directed the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to depute focal persons for such cases.

The two-judge bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar also put the federal and provincial law officers on notice for Oct 5, asking them to answer that what could be the liability of the state towards dependents of missing persons when it failed in implementing the constitutional guarantee to its citizens, particularly in the cases where family heads were missing and their dependents suffering financial crises in maintaining the minimum standard of life.

The bench further asked the advocate general of Sindh and deputy attorney general to also examine if financial assistance could be made to such families through zakat or social welfare department and Baitul Mal.

It also directed both the law officers to assist the court with regard to the services of missing persons whose salaries had been blocked by the departments concerned due to their absence and whether their families were entitled to receiving the same under the applicable service laws.

When the bench took up a petition seeking the whereabouts of a man who went missing over four years ago for hearing, the investigating officer submitted that apart from the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Military Intelligence, other agencies had denied the detention of the missing person.

The IO sought 15 days to submit a report of such agencies and also to make efforts to ensure the recovery of the missing person.

At this juncture, the petitioner informed the bench that her husband, Mohammad Adil, had been missing for the last four-and-half years, adding that they had six children and she could not manage their education and welfare without monetary support.

The bench observed that hundreds of complaints of missing persons had been begging an answer though it was an absolute responsibility of the state not to merely protect the right to exist or live, but the right to live a meaningful life with a minimum living standard.

The police are under legal obligation to dispose of missing persons’ complaints within a reasonable time, but things have always been otherwise, the bench in its order deplored and added that the life of a missing person was not limited to himself alone but included his dependents too when it came to the guarantee as provided by Article 9 (Security of person: No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law) of the Constitution.

The bench further said that under these circumstances, it put the Sindh AG and the AG on notice to assist it, especially in those cases where family heads were missing persons and their families were facing financial issues.

“Judicial propriety demands that this order shall be communicated to the concerned departments as referred above. Head of those departments shall depute their focal persons for the help of those families who are suffering as they are the persons, who were earning for their bread and butter and despite efforts of agencies yet they have not been found,” the bench said in its order.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2021

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