LHC suspends notification for new Model Town JIT

Split verdict says a provincial govt can only form one joint investigation team

Rana Yasif March 23, 2019
Split verdict says a provincial govt can only form one joint investigation team. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has suspended a notification of the Punjab government to form a new joint investigation team (JIT) for a fresh probe into June 2014 Model Town massacre “till the final decision of the main writ petition”.

A three-judge LHC bench issued the order on Friday with a majority view of 2-1. The decision came on a petition that challenged the Punjab government’s notification for formation of a new JIT headed by the National Highway and Motorway Police (NH&MP) chief AD Khawaja.

The new JIT had recently recorded statement of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is currently incarcerated at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail and is one of the accused in the June 17, 2014 incident in which 14 workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek were killed during a police crackdown against illegal barrier.

Model Town incident: JIT records Nawaz's statement in prison

In the order two LHC judges – Justice Aalia Neelum and Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan – said under section 19(1) and (1A) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, only one JIT can be constituted by a provincial government and a second JIT could only be constituted by the federal government.

“Whereas, the impugned notification for constitution of the third JIT has been issued by the government of Punjab which does not fall within the jurisdiction of the said government, it is therefore, prima facie, evident that the impugned notification dated January 3,2019 is illegal and without jurisdiction.

“Moreover, we have admitted the main petition for regular hearing in order to appreciate the above mentioned legal propositions involved in this case, therefore, if the interim relief to the petitioner is not granted then the proceedings of third JIT may be finalised and this petition shall become infructuous.

“We, therefore, deem it appropriate to suspend operation of the impugned notification till the final decision of the main writ petition,” the order said. However, the third member of the bench Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan wrote a dissenting note.

He said in addition to the ground urged in support of admission of this writ petition, it has been argued that on the basis of impugned notification the newly formed JIT is harassing the petitioner and as the impugned notification is patently illegal, therefore, the operation thereof may be suspended till final decision of the writ petition.

“I am afraid, the result of suspending the operation of the impugned notification would amount to stay of investigation and as per documents appended with these petitions, the earlier reports filed under section 173 CrPC are in fact incomplete challan, therefore, the investigation cannot be hampered and the high court cannot interfere in the investigation process, as held by the Supreme Court of Pakistan…

“Even otherwise, legality or jurisdictional defect, if any in the impugned notification, is yet to be seen by this court after hearing all the parties and at this stage grant of interim relief would mean grant of main relief sought in the writ petitions. Hence, the instant application is dismissed,” the judge noted.