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15 teachers booked under anti-terror law for being absent, misusing buildings

February 11, 2018

KARACHI: At least 15 male and female teachers including officials of ministerial staff of Sindh Education Department have been booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997, for remaining absent from their duties and the alleged misuse of school buildings in Dadu district.

The registration of cases was ordered by Dadu district and sessions judge.

In the recent incident, two more teachers – Ghulam Nabi Mastoi and Ghulam Abbas – were booked on Jan 27, under the ATA 1997 on the orders of D&SJ Ashoke Kumar.

The issue of absenteeism among teachers and closed schools is a chronic issue in the province and, according to independent sources, some 10,000 plus teachers remain away from their workplaces. They have been working as journalists, doing personal businesses, attached with non-governmental organisations or have gone abroad. On the other hand, hundreds of schools have been closed in the province or are being used illegally by the influential people as godowns, residential forms, cattle forms, etc.

Though the action of Judge Ashoke Kumar had widely been appreciated by majority of common people of the area, law and constitutional experts said absenting teachers could not be booked under ATA. Some said it was like exceeding the limits by the court.

These experts including a Sindh High Court former judge and renowned lawyer, former Supreme Court Bar association president Rasheed A Rizvi, senior lawyers including Sajjad Ahmed Chandio, Asif Kumbhar, Muhammad Sharif, Shabir Soomro and others were of the view that subordinate judiciary was not authorised to assume the role of executive by raiding or visiting schools and then issuing directions for lodging of FIRs under the anti-terrorism laws. Legal experts believe that the absenting teachers should be dealt with under the service rules.

Commenting on the issue, D&SJ Ashoke Kumar told the reporter that he had taken all steps on merit, according to the law, without any discrimination and in accordance with the directions of the upper courts. He said the first information reports (FIRs) have been lodged against teachers as per his interpretation of the law.

The judge said he performed his duties according to his own interpretation of the laws, and he was not responsible for what other judges do. He said he was answerable only to Allah, the Sindh High Court and Supreme Court.

In Dec 2017, an FIR under Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) was lodged on the orders of the same judge against doctors and paramedical staff of Mehar Taluka Hospital of district Dadu for their alleged absence from duty. But within days, the articles of Anti-Terrorism were withdrawn. But this time teachers are still being dealt under the ATA.

It is worth mentioning here that on Aug 15, 2017, Supreme Court’s three-judge bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, in its 22-page detailed judgement (copy available with The News) had clearly directed the subordinate judiciary not to implicate the accused of ordinary crimes in Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

In a recent order issued by Judge Ashoke Kumar (copy available with The News) two more teachers were booked under the ATA. He said Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate Johi (district Dadu), on the directions of Sindh High Court, during the proceedings of Constitutional Petition 1817/2016, Constitutional Petition D-337/2017 Hyderabad and on his directions, inspected different schools of Taluka Johi and submitted a report on Jan 19. The report said that Government Primary School Dilawar Panhwar of Johi was found closed and no teacher and students were available, while the village people stated that the school had been closed permanently.

In pursuance of the report, Taluka Education Officer (TEO) and supervisor of school were directed to appear before the sessions court, Dadu. Complying with the orders, Ghulam Nabi Mastoi, supervisor and Ghulam Abbas, teacher of the said school, appeared before the court and stated that on the said date of visit of judge, the teacher along with the students had gone to Sehwan Sharif for religious purpose. However, the school supervisor submitted that school was open and also admitting students. He requested the court to pardon the teacher for the mistake.

The order of the sessions judge further claimed that all judges in entire Sindh had been directed by the Sindh High Court in two constitutional petitions that they (judges) would leave the courts and make surprise visits to schools in their respective jurisdiction and pass appropriate directions on-the-spot in accordance with the law to all departments of Sindh and federal governments.

The order further says that all the judges are not only performing their duties in courts but also visiting different schools. That’s why their judicial work is suffering.

The sessions judge concluded his order that he has gone through the laws of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, wherein the definition provided that “whoever causes any kind of damage, destruction and annihilation to education and health departments, cases have to be lodged under the provision of Anti-Terrorism Act. According to him, the said supervisor and teacher were not providing education, thus leading the nation to destruction and stone age. Therefore, under compelling circumstances, direction has been issued to Station House Officer (SHO) Johi to lodge the FIR against both persons under Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. The sessions judge also directed the education secretary to put the services of both teacher and supervisor under suspension and stop their salaries.

Earlier, in the last five months, at least four FIRs had been lodged on the orders of Dadu sessions judge. Under the orders, some 10 plus male and female teachers and associate staff were booked under ATA on Nov 7, 2017, on the complaint of an official of court Fida Hussain against Principal of Lal Shahbaz Educational Centre, a school for the disabled children, Muneer Dahote, a female teacher, Tayyba Rafiq, and other teachers and office staff. On Nov 2, 2017, Abdul Wahab Lakhair, Abdul Rauf Lakhair were booked for allegedly misusing the school building. Headmistress Razia Sultana Panhwar and his husband Dhani Bux Panhwar were booked on Nov 17, 2017 under ATA.

Teacher Taj Muhammad Zardari, Sikandar Ali Channa, Qamardin Dawach and Abdullah Kabooro were also booked in cases under Anti-Terrorism Act.