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September 26, 2017

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Day-to-day hearing of appeal in Model Town report case ordered

Day-to-day hearing of appeal in Model Town report case ordered

LAHORE: A full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday turned down the Punjab government’s plea to suspend a single bench order to publicise the inquiry report on Model Town killings, announcing that it will hear the Punjab Home Department’s appeal on day-to-day basis.

The bench comprising Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh, Justice Qazi Amin Ahmed and Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi took up the government’s appeal, filed by the Punjab home secretary. Punjab government’s law officer Shan Gul pleaded that at least eight petitions of similar nature were pending adjudication before an LHC full bench and in such circumstances, the single bench was not empowered to decide the issue. He said the single bench did not seek written reply, comments from the government after admitting the writ petition for regular hearing.

He pointed out that the single bench committed a legal error by holding that proceedings before the LHC inquiry commission were judicial in nature and ignored the fact that the commission’s report had no value and did not count as evidence under the relevant law. Moreover, the proceedings of the commission were not judicial in nature, as it was merely a fact finding exercise, meant for facilitation of the executive, he argued.

The petitioner contended that sole purpose of the commission was to make recommendations to prevent happening of such incidents in future and it was not mandated to fix criminal or civil responsibility on any person. The commission was appointed by the state for its own information and its report was not meant to  be shared with anyone else, he asserted.

The law officer stated that the Lahore High Court chief justice was not mandated to act as a consultee of the Punjab government for the appointment of an inquiry tribunal under the Punjab Tribunals of Inquiry Ordinance 1969. However, the single bench did not address this legal question, the appeal said. The law officer said a contempt petition had also been filed for implementation of single bench order and if the verdict was not suspended, the government might face contempt proceedings.

However, the full bench head remarked that issue of suspending single bench order would be taken up in case the single bench passed an order in contempt petition, ruling that important legal points had been raised in government’s appeal which needed consideration and interpretation. At this, Barrister Ali Zafar, counsel for victim families, assured the court that they would not insist on publication of the inquiry court if the full bench started hearing the case on daily basis. The court adjourned the hearing till Oct 2 and asked both sides to come up with more arguments on the points raised in the appeal.

Earlier, a full bench constituted for hearing the government appeal was dissolved after its head Justice Muhammad Yawar Ali recused himself from the bench, citing personal reasons. As the bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Yawar Ali, Justice Anwarul Haq and Justice Abdul Sami Khan took up government’s appeal, Justice Yawar declined to hear the case. Later, acting CJ constituted a new full bench which heard the matter.

Meanwhile, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi deferred hearing of a contempt petition against the Punjab home secretary without any hearing. The court will resume hearing on Tuesday.

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