LAHORE: A local court in Lahore apologised to the owner of a cigarette and paan shop who had to spend six years in prison to appeal his five-day imprisonment, ordered by a special magistrate on the basis of the ‘Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance’.
“The court apologises for the delay in justice and the wrong judgment that led to imprisonment," the additional judge Amir Habib wrote in his verdict to the paan vendor’s Jamshed Iqbal’s appeal, calling it a stain on the judicial system.
Iqbal was given a five-day imprisonment in 2013 by a magistrate for selling paan, an assortment that includes areca nut and tobacco wrapped in betel leaf, and other items during the time of the fast in violation of the ordinance.
Under the Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance, 1981, it is illegal for Muslims to eat or drink in public from sunrise to sunset in Ramazan.
While Iqbal challenged the verdict immediately, the appeal process ended up taking six years in what was a mockery of not only the justice system as well as its ability to address grievances.
The sessions court not only released the accused but also apologised to him for the wrongful imprisonment. The verdict also noted that the magistrate made the wrong decision by sending the vendor to prison. Furthermore, the five-day sentence was contrary to the law, it noted.
The court gave directions to the Punjab chief secretary to appoint special magistrates who are competent and judicious.
Lamenting the behaviour of the special magistrate, the judge remarked that such decisions were not given in medieval times. “The magistrate wasted six years of an innocent person and these six years cannot be given back to him.”