Monday July 15, 2024

SC dissatisfied with probe into journalists torture, harassment case

A three-member SC bench heard a suo moto case regarding harassment of journalist

By Sohail Khan
May 14, 2024
This image shows the building of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad. — SC Website/File
This image shows the building of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad. — SC Website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) Monday declared as unsatisfactory a police investigation into journalists’ torture and harassment case, and ordered to appoint competent officers for probing the matter.

A three-member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, and comprising Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan, heard a suo moto case regarding harassment of journalist.

The court ordered to complete investigation into attacks on journalists including Absar Alam, Matiullah Jan and Asad Toor and submit a report in a month. The court declared that the sketches of the accused, who tortured journalists, should be published in newspapers and a reward money should be fixed for their arrest.

The court also directed that footage related to torture and abduction of journalists should be sent to the Punjab Forensic Laboratory for examination. During the hearing, the CJP expressed his anger over lack of progress in Matiullah Jan case and called the SSP Investigation to the rostrum and asked him if recording of the incident was available, and why no trace of kidnappers was found.

The SSP replied that no closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera was installed there. The CJP, however, asked him if he had come to the court to tell a lie. “You are insulting the police uniform; there is a recording, and you are saying there is no recording; whether it is written or not,” the CJP asked.

The judge said the fourth anniversary of abduction of Matiullah Jan was about to happen, but investigated could not be completed so far. The SSP Investigation told the court that the place from where Matiullah Jan was abducted lacked safe city cameras. The CJP said the whole world saw the video and you were saying that there was no video recording. Are you educated, asked CJP from the SSP.

Justice Naeem Akhtar observed that now science had made the investigation very easy. The CJP said that Canada had clashed with another country over murder of one of its citizens, the other country was not a small country either.

The CJP told additional attorney general to find out “if there is any collusion of the police in this case”. Barrister Salahuddin, counsel for Press Association of the Supreme Court, informed the court that the government had established a new National Cyber Crime Investigation Agency (NCCIA) under the PECA Ordinance. He submitted that keeping in view formation of new agency, they had amended their application.

Shah Khawar, counsel for Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), seconded argument of the counsel for the Press Association of Supreme Court, and added that there were lots of alternative remedies available which could be availed while dealing with contempt of court as well as matters relating to defamation cases, and action could also be taken under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman told the court that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which had filed an FIR against journalist Amir Mir, had now withdrawn the case. He informed the court that the case of journalist Absar Alam was, however, pending as charges were yet to be farmed against the accused persons, while progress was being made in journalist Asad Toor case.

He submitted that a letter had also been written to sensitive institutions on the case and sketches of the accused had also been sent. According to NADRA, he said the assailants could not be identified due to poor quality of the photographs. Thirty-three accused were being investigated in the case, he added.

Referring to journalist Absar Alam case, the AAG said an application had been made to Interpol for the arrest of the accused in the case.

Earlier, during the hearing, the CJP remarked that “while sitting on TV, we are taught how to run the courts. First we were bombarded and then [they] appear in the court and say there is no case”. He regretted that everyone was contributing to destruction of the country.

The CJP said “no one speaks the truth; no one even apologises for wrong news”, adding that “no one says that we have made a mistake by giving a wrong news. Mistakes are made only by the Supreme Court judges; just pick up a phone and become a journalist”, the CJP continued.

“If we don’t retaliate, it does not mean stones should be thrown on us,” the CJP remarked, adding that had it happened in a foreign country, pockets of the people would have got emptied in the defamation cases. During the hearing, the petitioners belonging to Chakwal, Raja Sher Bilal, Abrar Ahmed and M Asif appeared in-person and submitted that they did not file the petition in the Supreme Court.

The CJP, however, asked as to how someone used their name and residential address? “Will you file an FIR against those who filed the application without your permission,” the CJP asked. To which M Asif replied that if the court supported them, they could file an FIR.

Advocate-on record (AOR) Syed Rafafat Hussain Shah told the court that the application, which was filed through Advocate-on Record, had passed away. The chief justice asked from lawyer Haider Waheed who was on video link, and why they are taught while sitting on TV channels.

Haider Waheed told the court that he had been instructed by the AOR that he had been hired as a counsel. Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa further said there was a time before him when such applications were filed. “Gone are the days now when bogus petitions were filed in the Supreme Court,” the CJP remarked, adding that if someone would file such bogus petitions, he would have to face the consequences.

The CJP said the Supreme Court was being used for their own purposes; that would not work now. “I practised as a lawyer for 27 years, but never appeared on behalf of any petitioner whom I did not know,” the CJP added.

Absar Alam said the question should be asked as to why the good work had been done by filing the application? Whether the applicant came to the court himself, or someone else came there, he added. He said when a lawyer had come to Islamabad to pursue the case, who had paid for his ticket and accommodation.

Lawyer Waheed Haider replied that he had his own residence in Islamabad and he bought the ticket from his own pocket.

To a court query, Advocate-on Record Rafafat Hussain replied that he had not yet received any fee. The CJP said he heard the journalist harassment case initially, but later on the case was taken away from him and referred to other bench “We should call wrong as wrong. Why should I bear the burden of someone’s actions,” the CJP added.

During the hearing, Fariha Aziz appeared and submitted that the JIT made against journalists should be annulled. The chief justice, however, said the court would hear her in detail.

Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan remarked that the SC could not directly investigate a case, adding that 16 people were acquitted after 16 years due to poor investigation in criminal cases.

Justice Irfan Saadat Khan said everyone who wears the police uniform takes an oath like a judge. Later, the court adjourned the hearing for date-in-office (for an indefinite period).