LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Wednesday gave six days to the Punjab government to conclude arguments in an intra-court appeal against the decision of a single bench on Model Town inquiry report release . A LHC full bench, headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh, asked Advocate Khwaja Haris, who was representing the provincial government, to conclude his arguments till Oct 31.

During the proceedings, Advocate Azhar Siddique, the petitioners’ counsel, and government’s lawyer Khwaja Haris came hard on each other. However, the bench asked Mr. Azhar to wait for conclusion of his arguments and gave time to Mr. Khwaja to conclude arguments.

The appellant’s counsel said that the decision of the single bench was against the merit as the government was not given the chance of being heard.

In its appeal, the provincial government had opposed release of Model Town inquiry report saying that the report might create law and order situation while the government itself was responsible to maintain the law and order. It also said that the order passed by the learned single bench was illegal and unlawful as the government was not given the opportunity of being heard. It said that it was violation of Article 10 A of the Constitution. Justice was not seen to be done, the lawyers said. 

The matter should have been referred to the full bench seized with the same matter and there was no reason for the single bench to hear the said case. The government lawyers had quoted six cases lying pending adjudication before the full bench and argued that a single bench cannot allow petition in such situation.  The government lawyer prayed the court to set aside the single bench’s decision.

Govt issued notice in plea against Bhutta posting as CIC

The Lahore High Court on Wednesday issued notice to Punjab government in a petition challenging recent appointment of Naseer Ahmad Bhutt as the chief information commissioner (CIC).

Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah took up the petition observing that political affiliation is a point which must be defined. He raised a question as to how a man having nexus with political party could be appointed as the chief information commissioner – a post which must be filled with completely impartial person.

According to lawyer Shoaib Saleem, the commission is an independent enforcement body set up under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013 and its job is to set the required mechanism for right to information in Punjab, raise public awareness, help public bodies comply with the law, train public information officers, monitor their performance, decide complaints and take action against those failing to comply with.

He mentioned his earlier appointment as additional attorney general which he said was made by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2013. He said Bhutta was a political leader of the ruling party who once was elected as MNA from Lahore on the PML-N ticket so his recent appointment as information commissioner was made purely on political grounds and was in clear violation of Section 5 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013.

The lawyer claimed that CIC was also serving as PML-N Punjab Lawyers Forum President. Therefore, he could not be given the post on political basis as the same needed criterion and qualification required for the post of a high court judge.

Saleem apprehended that several petitions had been pending with the chief information commissioner, and being a political boss, he could hinder access to the information.

He contended that under Section 5 (2) of Section 5 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, “A Commissioner shall not hold any other public office or any other office of profit or be connected with any political party and shall not engage himself in any business or profession during the period he holds the office of the Commissioner,”. The petitioner prayed to the court to set aside appointment of Naseer Bhutta as Chief Information Commissioner and restrain him from working till decision on the petition. After hearing arguments of the petitioner, the CJ issued notice to the government and adjourned the hearing until Nov 13.