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Tuesday July 23, 2024

SHC orders home dept, IGP not to withdraw security of judicial officers without permission

By Jamal Khurshid
June 24, 2024
A view of facade of the Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — AFP/File
A view of facade of the Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — AFP/File

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the home secretary and inspector general of police to ensure that gunmen, police guards and escorts deployed at the residences of the serving as well as retired judges of the high court, and residences of the judges of anti-terrorism courts (ATC) and judicial officers of the district judiciary, as per their entitlement, shall not be withdrawn without permission of the respective judge and registrar of the high court.

The direction came on a petition filed by a retired ATC judge against withdrawal of police guards deployed at his residence. The high court observed that in case of any violation of such directions, the authority/officials concerned shall expose themselves to initiation of contempt of court proceedings.

The petitioner had submitted that he was a retired judicial officer and expressed his grievance against arbitrary and illegal withdrawal of a gunman and police guard deployed at his residence for security purposes.

A counsel for the petitioner had submitted that the retired judicial officer was entitled to security as there were serious threats to his life whereas the law and order situation in the province was already bad. The lawyer had said the act of withdrawing guards on the part of the police was unwarranted and contrary to the law as interpreted by the superior courts.

The high court was informed by the security SSP that police guards had been provided to the petitioner. A division bench of the SHC headed by Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi inquired the police officer as to why without seeking permission from the registrar of the high court or the respective judge, such deployment was withdrawn in spite of various notifications/letters from the department and from the office of the inspector general of police and registrar of the SHC to this effect.

The SSP security-I submitted that on account of some confusion with regard to the status of the retired judge, such deployment had been withdrawn on the instructions of the divisional threats assessment committee that was of the view that the petitioner had not been an ATC judge. He submitted that after ascertaining facts and pursuant to the court order, the deployment of guards had been restored.

The high court observed that there had been various instances reported regarding arbitrary and illegal withdrawal of police guards, gunmen and escorts from the residences even of serving judges despite the fact that the Supreme Court through a respective committee had issued specific directions to the departments/authorities concerned to provide complete security to the serving judges of the superior courts and their families.

The high court observed that the home ministry and police department pursuant to directions issued from time to time by the SHC chief justice through the registrar had deployed the gunmen/police guards (1+3) at the residences of judicial officers of district judiciary, retired judges of the court as well as judges of ATC whereas security of the retired judges had been compromised while withdrawing the same on one pretext or the other, which left the judges exposed to serious life threats.

Disposing of the petition, the SHC directed the home secretary and provincial police chief to ensure that the gunmen, police guards and escorts deployed at the residences of the serving and retired judges of the high court as well as the judges of ATCs and judicial officers of the district judiciary, as per their entitlement, shall not be withdrawn without permission of the respective judge and registrar of the high court.