Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice (CJ) Malik Shahzad Ahmad on Thursday said that state departments are causing serious threats to and harassing the courts and their staff, along with creating hurdles in procedures.

The chief justice’s remarks were made in the written order for a case on the alleged threats to a judge of a Sargodha anti-terrorism court (ATC) and his harassment by the intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Last week, CJ Ahmad had summoned Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Anwar and other officials on the complaint.

The LHC registrar office had received a special report on June 7 from District & Sessions Judge (DSJ) Muhammad Abbas, wherein he said that on May 25 — the first day of his new charge as Sargodha ATC judge — a message was conveyed to him that some authority of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) wanted to meet him in his chamber.

Upon refusing to meet the said authority, DSJ Abbas alleged that ever since then, he had been encountering various incidents, such as firing outside his ATC and questioning from family members, among others.

CJ Ahmad had reserved his verdict in the matter on June 13. The verdict was announced in today’s hearing.

The written order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said: “It is unfortunate to note that it is duty of the state to provide protection and pay respect to the courts but perusal of the special reports sent by the learned judge ATC Sargodha and assistant of the said court shows that prima facie the state departments have been causing serious threats/harassment to the courts and its staff and creating hurdles in the court process.

“Furthermore, the state departments have denied the constitutional rights of citizens of this country of having the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with the law while restraining them to approach the above-mentioned court.”

The order termed the Punjab police chief’s report in the matter “highly unsatisfactory”, saying that it did not mention whether any ISI official was approached by the police to verify the ATC judge’s allegations against the agency.

In one of many examples cited in the order about police and state departments impeding the work of the judges, LHC chief justice said that 12 transfer applications were filed by the Punjab prosecutor general for the transfer of cases from Rawalpindi ATC-1.

“In the said transfer applications, it was main ground of the prosecution branch that as a reference/complaint has been filed against the judge of the abovementioned court, therefore, the cases pending in his court may be transferred to any other court of competent jurisdiction.

“While arguing the said transfer applications learned prosecutor general Punjab repeatedly referred to the reference filed against the abovementioned judicial officer, in order to establish that sufficient material was available on the record of said reference to show the malafide and biasness of the abovementioned judicial officer, therefore, file of the said reference/complaint was summoned from the office.

“Perusal of the file of the reference/complaint shows that a reply was requisitioned from the abovementioned judicial officer and in his reply the learned judge ATC-1, Rawalpindi pointed out different incidents to establish that in fact the intelligence agencies and jail authorities have been trying to hamper the court process in a jail trial of May 9, 2023, case bearing FIR No. 2106/23.

“The accused arrested in the case fixed before his court were not produced before him and he had to mark their attendance in the barracks of the jail. Likewise, the accused, who were on bail were not allowed to enter the jail premises and he had to mark their attendance on the running road situated outside the jail building. Similarly, the lawyers who have been engaged by the accused to defend their cases were also not allowed to enter the jail premises to conduct the trial.

“He further mentioned in his reply that even his staff was humiliated and disgraced by the jail authorities. He added that the jail authorities on the asking of intelligence agencies made all sorts of efforts to hamper the court proceedings. Similar tactics have been adopted by the State departments in the instant case,” the order reads.

It said the Sargodha district police officer, deputy superintendent of police (DSP), Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) regional officer (RO) and the station house officer had acted in a “malafide and contemptuous manner” and thus contempt notices were being issued to them to show cause for why action should not be taken against them for “willful and deliberate contempt of the court”.

The order directed that they file their written answers before the next hearing.

“It is noteworthy that very serious allegations have been levelled in the special reports of special judge, ATC, Sargodha against ISI of Sargodha region but no report on behalf of sector incharge/commander ISI Sargodha sector … or on behalf of federal secretary of defence … has been filed before the court,” the order said, adding that neither had the other respondents filed their reports apart from IGP Anwar.

“The question of initiation of contempt proceedings against any other respondent or any person found involved in this case shall be decided after receipt of the reports by the above-mentioned respondents or at any subsequent stage, as the case may be,” the order added, further instructing that the Sargodha DSP and CTD RO also be made respondents in this case.

CJ Ahmad also ordered the federal interior and defence secretaries to extend their cooperation to the Punjab police chief in the case.

He adjourned the case to June 27 for a hearing by Justice Shahid Karim on account of his own elevation to the Supreme Court.

CJ Ahmad also ordered that all attested copies of the reports in the case from the various judges about alleged interference be sent to the Supreme Court registrar for placement before the bench hearing a similar case about judicial interference.

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