LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has observed that the unpleasant events of May 9 under the shadow of unbridled mob have defaced the peaceful and democratic image of the country and it was the responsibility of the government to arrange for law and order, but not in a way as resorted to on the fateful time.
“Riots are suppressed with force under the law as regulated under sections 127 to 132 of CrPC and not in the way adopted by the government to pick and detain the citizens under the umbrella of Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance, 1960 without registration of criminal cases,” Justice Safdar Saleem Shahid observed in a detailed order passed on the petitions against the detention of PTI leaders and workers.
The sections of the CrPC referred to by the judge provide the legal mechanism to deal with the unlawful assemblies and the maintenance of public peace and security. The mechanism includes the use of civil and military forces to disperse an unlawful assembly.
Justice Shahid noted that unfortunately, unrest in the country ensued on May 9 after the arrest of a political leader which was flashed on media showing people coming out for agitation and within no time it turned into an unholy mob who committed mischief at different places in the country.
“Confused in the situation, the government has opened a front, showing no application of mind, driven by passionate wishes; directed or dictated but not sound and logical, started dragging the ordinary citizens in criminal litigation with a ratio of one in three cases/proceedings minimum,” the judge regretted.
He said the government launched an attack on the acclaimed miscreants at the time when there was no law and order situation, a condition which necessitated for application of law relating to preventive detention.
In case there was some criminal activity, he said, the government had sufficient time to collect the material and book the individuals in criminal cases, so that one could know about the nature of allegations to properly defend and answer the charge which is the essence of due process and access to justice as enshrined in Article 10-A of the Constitution.
The judge observed that the respondent authorities had not even submitted reports/parawise comments despite specific directions by the court.
He believed that if there were any reasonable grounds for preventive detention of the detainees therein, the same should have been brought on record in order to assist the court to pass an appropriate order after considering all the facts and circumstances of the case.
He said the non-submission of the reports/comments by the respondents only supported the contentions of the petitioners that there was no material against them for their preventive detention.
By allowing the petitions, Justice Shahid had on May 23 set aside the detention orders against the PTI workers/leaders issued by the respective DCs of the 11 districts.
The judge ordered the government to release the petitioners immediately, if not required in any other case.
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2023