Registration of several FIRs in single offence against law: IHC

Published December 15, 2022
A file photo of Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri of the Islamabad High Court. — Picture via IHC website
A file photo of Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri of the Islamabad High Court. — Picture via IHC website

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday observed that registration of several first information reports (FIRs) of single occurrence is against the law.

Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, while hearing petitions filed by Information and Broadcasting Secretary Shahera Shahid, Pakistan Television Managing Director Sohail Ali Khan and Director News Rashid Baig over registration of FIRs against them in Punjab, remarked that the high court would settle this issue once and for all.

The judge issued a restraining order against registration of further FIRs against them over the same offence.

The Punjab police had registered several FIRs against them as well as PML-N leader Mian Javed Latif under different sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act for airing the latter’s press conference on the state-run PTV.

At the press conference on Sept 14, Mr Latif hurled “disturbing accusations” at PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the name of religion. He had accused Mr Khan of “attacking the basic principles of Islam” by supporting the Ahmadiyya community during his tenure as prime minister.

Bars authorities from lodging further cases against information secretary, PTV officials

The IHC wondered how various FIRs could be registered against government officials over a single offence.

Justice Jahangiri observed that the act of Punjab government was contradictory to its stance on the registration of FIRs against PTI Senator Azam Khan Swati in Balochistan and Sindh.

He expressed apprehension of a chaos-like situation if the provincial bureaucracy would take such measures against the Centre and the federal bureaucracy would reciprocate.

Additional Attorney General Munawar Iqbal Duggar told the court that the PTI-led Punjab government did not provide details of the cases registered against the PTV authorities.

Justice Jahangir warned of initiating contempt proceedings against the delinquent officers of Punjab and said the court would issue notices to advocates general of the provinces.

The judge sought assistance of the presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Islamabad High Court Bar Association and barred the authorities concerned from registering any new FIR against the PTV officials without the court’s permission.

It may be recalled that the issue of registration of more than one FIR had been raised during hearings in different courts.

On Dec 9, the Balochistan High Court ordered quashing all five cases registered against Azam Swati in the province.The court reprimanded the police for registering multiple cases against the PTI leader. The cases were registered for controversial tweets that Mr Swati had posted against army officials.

Sindh police have registered four FIRs against the PTI senator on similar charges.

On Dec 12, the Sindh High Court directed the provincial police not to arrest Mr Swati in further cases till Dec 15. The high court had also asked the Sindh prosecutor general and IG to go through the record and compare all the cases lodged in Sindh with the one registered in Islamabad against Mr Swati, who is currently in the custody of Qambar-Shahdadkot police.

In the case of slain journalist Arshad Sharif, a report submitted to the Supreme Court revealed that he was booked in identical FIRs for his alleged anti-state rhetoric and sedition.

These FIRs were registered in Islamabad, Baluchistan and Sindh. After the change of regime, when the PML-N formed its government at the Center and in Punjab, the provincial police also registered cases against him.

However, then IHC chief justice Athar Minallah had restrained handing over his custody to the federal or provincial police without the court’s permission.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2022

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