LAHORE - The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday expressed displeasure over the Punjab chief secretary and the Punjab prison department for not submitting reports about medical facilities being given to the prisoners at all the provincial jails.

Taking notice of a death of a prisoner Muhammad Mumtaz because of non-provision of medical facilities at Shahkot Jail of Sargodha district, the court had directed the prison department officials to ensure the weekly medical checkup of all the prisoners as per the prison rules. The chief secretary was also directed to arrange such arrangements in all the provincial jails.

As the court resumed hearing on Monday, it was informed by a provincial law officer that that no report had been submitted by the concerned quarters.

This statement irked Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi who remarked the government was not showing seriousness towards court directions. He said it was unfortunate that prisoners were being died because of apathy of the government functionaries.

The court adjourned the hearing till four weeks and again directed the Punjab chief secretary and prison department to submit the reports.

The court had taken the notice on the death of a prisoner who had moved his bail application on medical grounds citing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a common lungs disease). But, before acceptance of his bail application, he died at the Shahkot jail.

The superintendent of Shahkot central jail, Mansoor, admitted the prisoner had died because of unavailability of medical facilities. According the medical examination report of the prisoner, Muhammad Mumtaz was suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease for which he needed detailed investigations like CT scan chest and bronchoscope. However, these facilities were not available in the jail hospital, the medical report said.

Also, the LHC deferred hearing on a constitutional petition moved by Jamaat-i-Islami against political office of President Asif Ali Zardari and sought a declaration that the President suffered from pre-election disqualification on account of retaining office of the political party at the time of filing nomination papers for the presidential election.

The JI filed the petition through its deputy secretary Dr Fareed Ahmad Pracha and stated that the respondent (President) from the day one has been persistently carrying on political activities as head of state as well as head of political party.

Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh asked the petitioner’s counsel to give more arguments on maintainability of the petition. The court will resume hearing on Nov 28.

Petitioner, through his counsel AK Dogar, said the meetings of core committee of the ruling political party were regularly being held in the presidency and expenses were met from public exchequer. He said a full bench of the LHC had on May 12, 2011 directed the president to disassociate himself from the office of political party at the earliest but the respondent had consistently committed disobedience of the order as well as of the Constitution.

The petitioner prayed to the court to declare that the respondent as head of a political party was not qualified at the time of his nomination for election of the President.

He pleaded that the ‘deliberate’ insistence of President as head of a political party in spite of clear command of the court and in violation of the oath under Article 42 called for legal action for disobedience of the Constitution which attracts Article 6 of the Constitution in light of recent judgment passed by the Supreme Court in Asghar Khan case.

The petitioner also prayed to set aside the proviso in Section 3 of the high treason (Punishment) Act 1973 which empowers federal government only to initiate proceedings under Article 6 of the Constitution being in violation of fundamental rights of access to justice.