Lopsided probe? Inquiry into release of prisoners ‘flawed’

Published: May 13, 2016
Judge accused of overlooking his juniors role in the matter. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Judge accused of overlooking his juniors role in the matter. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

LAHORE: A court official facing a departmental inquiry over his alleged role in the release of under-trial prisoners on counterfeit documents has said that the judge who held him responsible had overlooked the role of his own staff in the matter.

In a written statement submitted to additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) Tajammul Shazad Chaudhary, Awais Mehmood, an official in the English branch of sessions’ court, said that ADSJ Nasir Javed Rana, who held the initial inquiry, had not taken into consideration calls record obtained by an investigation officer from the cell phones of two of his naib courts. He said the record showed that one of ADSJ Javed’s staff members had been in contact with the main suspect, Advocate Sibtain Ali Hanjra, and his clerk, Abdul Waheed, on the day the latter secured release of a prisoner using counterfeit documents.

Mehmood also complained that the judge had held him guilty in the matter without giving him an opportunity to defend himself. He said that according to the standard operating procedures (SoPs) the documents had to be forwarded in sealed envelopes directly to the superintendent at the sessions’ court. The superintendent was responsible for examining the content, including authenticity of signatures, and taking note of the receipt of the document in the court register, he said. “My duty is to assist the assistant superintendent,” he has added.

Mehmood also said that he was not the only official responsible for receiving documents received in mail at the sessions’ court. There were also dispatch clerks, he said. He added that two of the counterfeit documents mentioned in the initial inquiry were received by a dispatch clerk, identified as Zeeshan Tahir, covering for him when he was vacationing from August 13, 2015 to August 22, 2015.

In the initial inquiry, ADSJ Nasir Javed had found that advocate Sibtain Ali Hanjra and his team were getting released under-trial prisoners by preparing fake bail orders using counterfeit stamps and forged signatures of the judges concerned.

The inquiry had also found some officials at the judicial wing of the district jail and the sessions’ court guilty in the matter. The latter were found negligent in performance of their duties.

It had found that the advocate and his team had secured release of eight suspects using counterfeit documents.

The inquiry report had stated that Hunjra had also been nominated in 17 car lifting and robbery cases. He had been detained and some of the stolen items were recovered from him. It stated that an investigation team had claimed that Hunjra had admitted to having a role in one of the car lifting cases. He had told the police that he had hired some men to pick up Advocate Taimoor Tahir Kharal’s car. Hunjra had said that he wanted to teach Kharal a lesson for his role in a sting operation against one of his accomplices.

Advocate Kharal had initially raised the matter upon learning that Hunjra had secured release of two suspects in a robbery case using counterfeit documents. Kharal was representing two other suspects in the case. In a complaint to ADSJ Gulzar Ahmad Khalid, Kharal had sought action against Hunjra for using counterfeit documents to secure the release of suspects.

An FIR was susbsequently registered with Islampura police and Hunjra’s clerk Waheed was arrested in a sting operation. Hunjra had then obtained a pre-arrest bail in the matter.

The inquiry report had suggested that directions be issued to all executing courts to submit a list of execution petitions in which the original record was not available. It had said judicial officers should be asked to undertake a thorough examination of these petitions for irregularities. It had also suggested that the Anti-Corruption Establishment be approached for criminal proceedings against those involved in the matter and the Punjab Bar Council for cancellation of Hunjra’s licence.

Following the initial inquiry, SI Irshad at the Islampura police station had said that Hunjra had been granted bail in the matter. He had said that during investigation he had denied the charges.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2016.

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