KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday set aside the detention orders of 15 workers of the Altaf Hussain-led Muttahida Qaumi Movement, commonly known as MQM-London, under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance for being without lawful authority.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry also ordered their release if not wanted in any other case and sought a compliance report from the home secretary, inspector general of police (IGP) and advocate general within 24 hours.

The relatives of the detainees had moved the SHC impugning the 30-day detention orders issued by the home department on the recommendation of IGP-Sindh on July 12 under the MPO.

At the last hearing, the SHC had summoned the home secretary to justify their detention and also called a report from the IGP.

At the outset of the hearing on Wednesday, a provincial law officer filed comments on the behalf of the home department and the IG Office while an additional home secretary along with other officials was in attendance.

When the bench asked an assistant advocate general whether the provincial cabinet had approved the detention under the MPO, he stated that the impugned detention orders were issued in accordance with law.

He claimed that the provincial government could authorise any official to issue detention orders under the MPO.

Justice Chaudhry remarked that now amendments had been made in the relevant laws and the home secretary or IGP could not exercise such powers as the same was transferred to the magistrate concerned.

The bench asked the officials whether the detainees had any criminal record, and whether any material against them was placed before a court. The additional home secretary submitted that they had some sensitive information about the detainees.

The counsel for petitioners argued that the authorities had so far arrested around 500 party workers across the province and there was no concrete and cogent reason or evidence to detain them under the MPO.

After hearing both sides, the bench in its order ruled, “For reasons to follow, these petitions are allowed and the impugned notices issued under the MPO, 1960 are declared without lawful authority and are set aside.”

It ordered the authorities to release the detainees forthwith if not required in any other case. “A compliance report shall be submitted to this court within 24 hours.”

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2023

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