The Supreme Court on Monday disposed of a case pertaining to the 2013 murder of social worker Parween Rehman, ordering Sindh police to file Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) reports in an ATC in Karachi within a fortnight.
Rehman was killed while she was on her way home from her office by assailants on the main Manghopir Road near the Banaras flyover on March 13, 2013.
The apex court was seized with a constitution petition which was filed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and others pleading for an independent, fair and effective re-investigation into the target killing of the director of Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). Her driver, Wali Dad, had lodged the FIR.
The matter was pending since 2014. More than 40 hearings were conducted during the period. However, one section of the lawyers says that despite conducting dozens of hearings, the apex court’s efforts could not yield any fruitful result in tracing the mastermind of her murder. Two active lawyers -- Raheel Kamran Sheikh and Faisal Siddiqui -- pursued the matter on behalf of the petitioners in the apex court.
Since 2013, several investigation teams were constituted to probe the matter. Even a judicial inquiry, conducted by a Karachi district and sessions judge, had failed to make any progress.
Two years ago, the petitioners had requested the top court to form a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) consisting of officials of federal agencies. The court accepted the plea and formed the JIT.
The two JITs and judicial officers in their investigation had noted that involvement of land grabbers in the murder case could not be ruled out.
A three-judge bench led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, while disposing of the case, directed the Sindh police to file two JITs -- one headed by SSP Omer Shahid Hamid and the other by FIA Director Babur Bakht Qureshi -- in the Anti-Terrorism Court No XIII where the five murder accused have been facing trial, within a period of two weeks for reasons to be recorded later.
The bench further directed the trial court to proceed with the matter expeditiously in accordance with the law.
The court also disposed of a review petition, challenging the September 24, 2020 order whereby the trial court was directed to conclude the proceedings within a month.
Sheikh, the counsel for the petitioner, argued that the September 24 order was obtained in his absence by misleading the court, as the investigation reports of the two JITs constituted pursuant to the orders passed in the constitution petition were yet to be filed in the trial court.
Moreover, additional evidence to be presented before the trial could be ordered to be concluded; otherwise, the entire proceedings before the Supreme Court in the last two years would be “an exercise in futility”.
Faisal Siddiqui, in the connected Criminal Petition No 1292 of 2020, while assailing the order passed by the Sindh High Court whereby criminal revision filed by Mrs Aquila Ismail, the sister of late Parveen Rehman against the rejection of her application to summon members of the JIT as witnesses, argued that the SHC had not only entertained the criminal revision but also restrained the trial court from passing the final judgement till a decision of the high court.
He added that it seemed the court primarily proceeded to dismiss criminal revision after the Supreme Court issued the direction to conclude the trial within one month by order dated September 24, 2020, which was obtained by misleading the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Latif Afridi, while representing the accused in the trial, objected to the maintainability of the petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution and the intervention of the Supreme Court in the matter of criminal investigation.
However, the court asked him to raise the objection he had to the JIT reports being filed in the trial court and continuation of the proceedings in accordance with the law, to which he could not object and insisted on fixation of a timeframe for a decision of the trail by the ATC.
The court, while refraining from fixing any timeframe, however, directed the trial court to conclude the case expeditiously.
While disposing of the case, the court also observed that the orders passed by the Supreme Court for the protection of the OPP staff shall continue to be obeyed and allowed the petitioners to approach the court by filing a civil miscellaneous application (CMA) if an occasion arises.