LAHORE - The ruling PML-N received a serious setback on Tuesday when a single bench of the Lahore High Court rejected petitions filed by four federal ministers and upheld the earlier order of the sessions court wherein the police were directed to register a criminal case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and 20 others for their alleged involvement in the killing of 15 people in Model Town on June 17.
In his four-page order, Justice Mahmood Maqbool Bajwa said it is the job of an investigation officer to collect evidence in order to reach conclusion regarding veracity or falsity of allegations referred to in the crime report and the arrest of a suspect or an accused is not necessary during the course of investigation. The general impression in this regard is misconceived because a person named in the FIR is not to be arrested straightaway upon registration of FIR or as a matter of course unless there is sufficient incriminating evidence regarding culpability of the accused. Punjab Law Minister Rana Mashhood says the government will file intra-court appeal against the order.
Federal minister for information Pervaiz Rasheed, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq and State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali had filed the petitions against the impugned order passed on a petition of Jawad Hamid, director administration of the secretariat.
During the arguments, Minhajul Quran’s counsel Mansoorur Rehman Afridi said the police intentionally ignored substantive evidences and statements of eyewitnesses and lodged a one-sided FIR on the complaint of a police official. He said the FIR registered by the police had no value in the law. According to him, a bench of Sindh High Court had ordered third FIR in a same case, implying that it was wrong to say that a second FIR cannot be registered.
Joint Investigation Team’s head Additional Inspector General Arif Mushtaq also appeared before the court and submitted a report to the judge in his chamber.
Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, representing the petitioner-ministers, contended that Minhajul Quran and Pakistan Awami Tehreek leaders including Dr Tahirul Qadri had not joined the investigation and thus expressed their distrust in the state institutions.
He said nobody turned up on behalf of the Minhajul Quran or PAT despite several invitations by police. The petition filed by the Minhajul Quran before the sessions court was ‘politically-motivated’, he said, adding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others named as suspects in the application of Minhajul Quran had nothing to do with the tragic incident.
Advocate Tarar also argued that an ordinance whereby sub-section 6 was added to section 22-A and 22-B of CrPC had lapsed and the sessions court no longer enjoyed the power to order lodging of an FIR.
Advocate General Punjab Hanif Khatana said the sessions court passed the impugned order without viewing investigation reports of JIT and police. He said the petition filed by the Minhajul Quran Secretariat was politically-motivated and based on misconception.
The judge, however, dismissed the petitions, holding that the petitioners failed to establish their case. The judge observed that purpose and object of recording FIR is to set the criminal law in motion and to obtain first hand information of occurrence in order to exclude the possibility of fabrication of story or consultation or deliberation and to safeguard the accused of such like happenings.
He further observed that the registration of FIR against the petitioners would not prove their guilt till decision by court of competent jurisdiction and it also cannot be used as a substantive piece of evidence against any accused unless it is proved in accordance with law.
Inquiry as to correctness or otherwise of allegations is not required to be made prior to registration of FIR though degree of care and caution is required while proceedings under Section 22-A (6) of The Act V of 1898, he remarked.
The arrest of accused is to be deferred till the availability of evidence in order to satisfy the investigation officer regarding correctness of allegations leveled by the complainant against a person named in the crime-report.
It may be recalled that Additional Sessions Judge Raja Muhammad Ajmal Khan had passed the order on the application filed by Minhajul Quran Secretariat under section 22-A 22-B seeking registration of criminal case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, former provincial law Minister Rana Sanaullah, former secretary to Punjab Chief Minister Dr Tauqeer Shah, MNA Hamza Shahbaz, federal ministers including Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Pervaiz Rasheed, Abid Sher Ali and Inspector General Police Mushtaq Sukhera, DIG operations Rana Abdul Jabbar, SP Model Town Tariq Aziz, SP Security Salman, SP Maroof Safdar Wahla, Khana SHO inspector Ishtiaq, SHO Nishtar Town Majeed Usman and other officials for their direct and indirect involvement in Model Town incident.