LAHORE: Despite Supreme Court orders to the Lahore High Court to rehear the appeal of PML-N lawmaker Abid Raza and others sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court, the matter has not made any progress in nine months.
The top court had ordered the matter needed to be taken up within two months.
Raza was sentenced to death for the murder of six people during a failed assassination attempt on the former nazim of Gujrat, Ghulam Sarwar Bhooch, in 1998.
On June 16, 2016, a five-member Supreme Court bench, headed by then Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, took suo moto notice and set aside LHC’s order for exonerating the accused after a compromise with the families of the deceased. It referred the matter back to the LHC to hear it afresh.
The SC order stated the compromise applications shall be deemed pending before the high court and heard and decided along with criminal appeals connected with murder references in a period of two months.
The SC also said the accused would be considered ‘released on bail’ upon execution of a bond amounting to Rs500,000 each.
On June 26, 2003, a bench of the then LHC chief justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry and Justice Pervaiz Ahmed accepted the appeals of Abid Raza and his accomplices Ghulam Rasool, Muhammad Ghazanfar and Najibullah Khan. They acquitted the four men after a compromise was reached with the families of the victims.
The Supreme Court registrar, on June 22, 2016, returned the original record of the matter to the LHC for necessary action. It was received by the LHC on June 27 and the matter should have been decided by September 27, 2016, it SC instructions were followed.
The case was taken up by a division bench of the high court comprising justices Abdul Sami Khan and Raja Shahid Abbasi on October 24. However, the lack of time meant it was adjourned will October 26’.
On October 26, arguments were heard by the same bench and proceedings were adjourned till October 27. The same bench took up the matter on November 10, 2016, but relisted it for November 16 due to the unavailability of Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, the counsel of Raza.
The bench took up the matter on November 24 and relisted the matter for December 13. Then the matter was transferred to a new bench of Justice Muhammad Tariq Abbasi and Justice Chaudhry Mushtaq Ahmed on January 24, 2017.
This bench also simply relisted the matter for January 31, 2017 on the request of Advocate Khawaja Muhammad Haris, one of the counsels of the accused.
The case was subsequently fixed before the bench of Justice Abdul Sami and Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem on March 13. The judges did not hear any arguments, saying a special division bench was formed to take up matters involving the anti-terrorism act.
They referred the matter to the chief justice to fix the case before a special DB.
The case was taken up by Jutice Kazim Raza Shamsi on March 20 and was again simply adjourned. The matter has been fixed for April 5 as the judge deemed it had been wrongly scheduled.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2017.
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