ISLAMABAD: A request by the Islamabad police seeking possession of a vehicle — belonging to the Lahore High Court — to investigate its involvement in a two-year-old hit-and-run case has been denied by a judicial magistrate, who said the request made by the Khanna police was not justified.

In 2022, a sports utility vehicle allegedly driven by the daughter of the Lahore High Court judge ran over two persons — who worked at Savour Foods — near the Sohan bridge on the Expressway at midnight and the investigation into the case had remained stalled.

As per the details available in the judicial record, on June 8, Shakeel Tanoli and his colleague Hasnain Ali were going home at midnight when they were hit by an SUV allegedly driven by a woman.

According to the details, the woman left the vehicle behind as she fled the scene. The police took the vehicle in custody which was later given to an official of the Lahore High Court on ‘superdari’ in July 2022 upon assurance that he “shall produce the vehicle in the court as and when required”.

Two people were killed in June 2022 after SUV ran over them on Expressway

Since the police were not investigating the case, Rafaqat Tanoli, the father of the deceased, moved the Islamabad High Court in December last year, requesting the court to order the police to act in accordance with the law. IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had issued a notice to the police and sought a reply.

During a recent hearing in this matter, police officers informed the IHC that the LHC officials were not cooperating in the investigation and had refused to hand over the vehicle involved in the hit-and-run.

Mr Tanoli stated in the petition pending before the IHC that family members of the suspect, including her brother Wajahat Khan, also came to his house in the Mansehra district and warned him of dire consequences if he pursued the case. He requested the court to issue directions to the police to conduct the investigation and proceed against the suspect under sections 279 (rash and negligent driving) and 322 (murder without intention).

Subsequently, the police approached Judicial Magistrate Khanna Suhaib Bilal Ranjha earlier this month for the cancellation of the superdari of the vehicle. However, the magistrate rejected the petition filed by the Khanna SHO after deferring it thrice. Legal experts say such applications are usually decided within days but the magistrate after a preliminary hearing deferred it at least three times.

The application stated that “since the day of occurrence the respondent [the deputy registrar protocol of LHC] is not cooperating with the local police, PS Khanna, Islamabad, for the purpose of investigation”. It said that “the accused person who was driving the above said vehicle bearing registration No LEJ-17-666 is still at large due to the non-cooperative attitude on the part of the respondent because despite hectic correspondence, respondents as well as protocol section of the honourable Lahore High Court, Lahore is reluctant to share the details of the driver who was driving the vehicle”.

The SHO Khanna pointed out that the protocol officer of the LHC while taking the vehicle on superdari “categorically mentioned in the statement recorded before the judicial magistrate on July 29, 2022, that he shall produce the vehicle in the court as and when inquired but despite repeated efforts by the investigation officer, [the] respondent failed to appear before the investigation officer in connection with the investigation of this case and also failed to provide detail of driver etc.”

Judge Ranjha observed that “it is an admitted fact that vehicle in question is a government vehicle and there is no rival claimant of the vehicle. It is settled law that interim custody of vehicle in ordinary course is granted to the owner of [the] vehicle or last possessor.”

The judge said the SHO was seeking the cancellation of the ‘superdari’ saying that the suspect who was driving the vehicle was still not arrested by the police and to compel them to join the probe, it was necessary to cancel the ‘superdari’.

“The grounds taken by the petitioner [SHO Khanna] for cancellation of the ‘superdari’ of the vehicle are not justified because there is no rival claimant of the vehicle in question and no cogent reason has been forwarded by the petitioner…therefore, this application stands dismissed.”

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

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