The government filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday for PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s physical custody, arguing that the ongoing investigation against him and collection of evidence could not be completed without it.
Gill was arrested on Tuesday at Banigala Chowk in the capital after a video clip of his controversial remarks, aired on ARY News, went viral on social media. Later in the day, he was booked on charges of sedition and inciting the public against the state institutions.
On Thursday, another charge of disappearing evidence and giving false information was added to the first information report registered against Gill, officials from capital police told Dawn.
Subsequently, Judicial Magistrate Omar Shabbir rejected the police’s request to extend Gill’s physical remand and sent him to jail on judicial remand.
Later, the prosecution filed an appeal before Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Mohammad Adnan against the rejection of the plea seeking an extension of Gill’s physical remand. However, after hearing the arguments, the plea was dismissed.
Today, Islamabad Advocate General Jahangir Khan Jadoon filed a petition in the IHC, naming Gill, the sessions judge and the judicial magistrate as respondents.
The petition argued that the investigation in the case was not complete, according to the prosecution, and therefore, the judicial magistrate had "completely halted" the ongoing investigation by remanding Gill into judicial custody.
Resultantly, it said, the prosecution's case was "seriously prejudiced" and it could not bring further results of the investigation on the record.
The petition said that the session judge's order was "perverse and without jurisdiction" since Shabbir passed a judicial order, instead of an administrative order, and thus had the power to exercise his revision jurisdiction if any illegality came to the court's knowledge.
Jadoon argued that the judicial magistrate did not take into account that "valuable evidence will not be collected" unless Gill cooperated with the investigation and the police had yet to recover his cellphone and the data from it.
He added that Gill's physical custody was also required to obtain information about the other suspects in the case. Jadoon argued that the judicial magistrate had not realised the "gravity of the offence" and sent Gill to judicial custody without considering the police's request for his physical remand on merit.
The petition said the orders of the two judges were "capricious, perverse and against the provision of applicable law", adding that if it was not accepted for hearing, then the state institution would face "irreparable loss" and Gill would be "acquitted".
It requested the IHC to set aside the orders of the two judges, grant Gill's physical custody to the investigating agency for the collection of further evidence and declare that the judicial magistrate's verdict was a judicial order and open to revision by the sessions judge and the IHC.
The IHC registrar accepted the petition and fixed it for hearing on August 15 (Monday) by Acting IHC Chief Justice Amir Farooq.
Gill’s controversial comments
Earlier this week, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) issued a show-cause notice to ARY News for airing comments from Gill, that it said were “highly hateful and seditious” remarks tantamount to “incite armed forces towards revolt”.
The notice went on to say that Gill was invited via a telephonic call for his comments and during his talk with the channel, Gill had alleged that the government was trying to provoke the lower and middle tier of the army against the PTI, saying the families of such “rank and file” support Imran Khan and his party “which is fuelling rage within the government”.
He had also alleged that the “strategic media cell” of the ruling PML-N was spreading false information and fake news to create divisions between PTI chief Imran Khan and the armed forces.
Gill had said the government leaders, including Javed Latif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq, had lambasted the army in the past “and they were at the government positions now”.
“The statement made by the guest on ARY News is a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution as well as Pemra laws. Airing of such content on your news channel shows either weak editorial control on the content or the licensee is intentionally indulged in providing its platform to such individuals who intend to spread malice and hatred against state institutions for their vested interests,” the watchdog stated.
“Dr Gill tried to malign the federal government, claiming the government functionaries are spearheading a campaign through social media cell for propagating anti-army narrative,” the authority said.