IHC directs Islamabad IGP to probe alleged torture of Mohsin Baig in police custody

Published February 18, 2022
A photo of media personality Mohsin Jamil Baig holding a gun in an altercation with FIA officials in Islamabad on Wednesday. — Photo by author/File
A photo of media personality Mohsin Jamil Baig holding a gun in an altercation with FIA officials in Islamabad on Wednesday. — Photo by author/File

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday directed the capital's inspector general of police (IGP) to probe allegations that media personality Mohsin Jamil Baig is being subjected to torture while in police custody and submit a report on the matter.

The IHC issued the order on a petition filed yesterday by Baig's wife, Shehla Mustafa, requesting the court to quash cases registered against Baig.

Baig has been named in two cases — one registered with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the other with Margalla police.

The first case was registered at the FIA's cybercrime reporting centre in Lahore on Communications Minister Murad Saeed's complaint over his "character assassination" during NewsOne talk show G for Gharidah, in which Mohsin Baig was one of the panelists.

Subsequently, an FIA team raided Baig's residence in Islamabad on Wednesday, taking action on Saeed's complaint. During that raid, officials allege Baig shot at and roughed up members of the FIA team, following which he was arrested by police and a separate case was registered against him for attacking government officials.

Today, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah took up the petition involving the criminal case against Baig, registered after he allegedly attacked the FIA team raiding his house. However, Justice Minallah did not approve the petition to quash the case, saying that Baig needed to be the petitioner himself for the court to consider that plea.

Observing that Mustafa had essentially sought the quashing of the criminal case against Baig, the court said in its written order that the "petitioner's husband has been formally arrested in the case and, therefore, he alone can be treated as an aggrieved person" in this regard.

Earlier during the hearing, Justice Minallah had also said, as stated in the court order, that Baig would have to file a petition himself for the quashing of the police case against him.

"We cannot set an example of issuing an order on the plea of a third party," he said.

But the judge said allegations of torture under police custody were "grave" and asked the police chief and a judicial magistrate to look into these allegations and submit a report on them.

In its order issued on Mustafa's petition, the court said the petitioner's counsel maintained that Baig was "manhandled and physically harmed while in the custody of the in-charge of the police station, Margalla", and had been "denied access to a lawyer of his choice".

"It is noted that no accused, regardless of the gravity of the alleged offence, can be treated otherwise than in accordance with law, let alone being subjected to physical harm," the court order read.

Based on these observations, the IHC directed the Islamabad IGP to "independently" carry out an inquiry regarding Baig's treatment and submit a report at the next hearing on February 21.

The court also sought a report from the Islamabad district magistrate, directing him to inspect the Margalla police station and probe allegations of Baig's manhandling, torture and denial of access to a lawyer.

Moreover, the court issued a notice to the Islamabad attorney general in the case.

"It is reiterated that regardless of the gravity of offence, manhandling and torture of an accused during custody in a police station is intolerable and such acts are likely to expose the responsible officials to consequences," the court said in its order.

Mustafa's lawyer, Latif Khosa, had also claimed in court that an additional sessions judge, who had declared the raid on Baig's house illegal, was being "threatened".

"It is being said that action will be taken against the additional sessions judge," he said, referring to media reports on the matter.

A Dawn report published today quoted Advocate General Niazullah Niazi as saying that "the prime minister has directed me to file a petition/reference against Additional Session Judge Islamabad Zafar Iqbal for giving judgement beyond his mandate before Islamabad High Court chief justice.”

"This matter is being linked to the prime minister," Khosa said in court today, at which Justice Minallah assured him that no judge could be threatened and told him not to worry.

When Khosa said all television channels were airing this news, Justice Minallah replied: "Let them do whatever they are doing. Courts are above all this."

With regards to the allegations of torture, the judge said the Islamabad police chief should ensure that Baig was treated according to the law. He added that Baig should also be allowed to meet his lawyer.

Remand extended

Meanwhile, an Islamabad anti-terrorism (ATC) court extended Baig's physical remand by three days in the case registered against him for allegedly attacking the FIA team that raided his house.

Earlier, the court had sent Baig on a three-day physical remand in police custody on Wednesday, right after he was arrested.

Yesterday, the court had also sent two of his household staffers on physical remand in police custody for a day, who were again sent on a judicial remand today.

Baig was presented before ATC Judge Muhammad Ali Warraich today, upon the expiry of his initial remand.

Khosa, who is also representing Baig in the ATC, pointed out at the hearing that the FIA team had raided Baig's residence around 9:15am on Wednesday on an FIR that was registered with the FIA at 9am that very day.

"Chadar aur char diwari were violated in this matter," he said, adding that men had entered Baig's house in plain clothes without a search warrant.

Khosa then read out the content of the case registered with the FIA before the court, contending that since the FIR mentioned Reham Khan's book, she should be taken into custody.

He further argued that the FIR mentioned the entire panel of the TV show in which remarks were made about federal minister Saeed, but only Baig had been arrested from among them.

He contended that there were no grounds for the inclusion of the sections on Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, in the FIR.

The lawyer said that FIA's cybercrime cell had registered a "fake" case against his client.

Following that, police presented Baig's photographs as record before the court, wherein Baig is seen holding a pistol at the place of the incident (raid at his house).

Police Inspector Sajid Cheema then sought Baig's remand for the recovery of the pistol.

At that, Baig's counsel argued that police had already recovered the weapon from his client after his arrest and it was with police.

When the court asked which FIA official was injured in the incident, police said Sub-Inspector Wasim Sikandar had sustained injuries and his medical check-up had been completed.

The judge then inquired about Sikandar's medical report.

During proceedings, Baig interjected, seeking the court's permission to "tell the truth".

He said he was sitting in the SHO's room at Margalla police station when FIA personnel beat him and alleged that police had stealthily taken away the digital video recorder from cameras installed at his residence.

Application for Baig's medical report

Baig also told the court that his medical examination was conducted for five hours but police was yet to release its report

Later, Baig's lawyer moved an application before the court for the release of his medical report.

The application stated that Baig was diabetic and suffered from other illnesses as well.

It said the FIA had tortured Baig and the agency and police had got his medical check-up done at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and Polyclinic.

It prayed the court to issue directives for the release of Baig's medical report.

Opinion

Editorial

Election time
Updated 27 Jan, 2023

Election time

There are concerns whether the ECP will be sufficiently able to protect the integrity of elections if they are held under partisan governments.
SCO invite
27 Jan, 2023

SCO invite

THOUGH India’s invitation to Pakistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation events in Goa later this ...
Call to arms
27 Jan, 2023

Call to arms

ONE way the state abdicates responsibility in Pakistan is by farming out its functions to the private sector. In ...
Nuclear miscalculations
26 Jan, 2023

Nuclear miscalculations

IF the claim of former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, that Pakistan and India came close to a nuclear exchange...
Exchange rate cap
26 Jan, 2023

Exchange rate cap

THE ‘management’ of the exchange rate by the State Bank, allegedly at the behest of the government, to ward off...
Fawad’s arrest
Updated 26 Jan, 2023

Fawad’s arrest

Does the state really need to fan public discontent in a period as fraught with uncertainty as this?