Cheema petitions for 'fair' open court trial

Former governor says obvious 'bad intentions' apparent through deliberate procedural mistakes in the order

Rana Yasif April 17, 2024
Omar Sarfraz Cheema. Photo: PTI Facebook page


A Lahore High Court (LHC) division bench, led by Justice Aalia Neelum on Wednesday, requested responses from the Punjab government and other pertinent entities regarding a plea filed by former Punjab governor and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Umer Sarfraz Cheema, challenging his imprisonment trial stemming from a first information report (FIR) filed against him after the May 9 riots.

Cheema, in his petition, urged the court to annul the contested order that instigated his imprisonment trial and mandated the conduction of his trial in an open court to ensure 'equity and impartiality.'

The petitioner asserts that he is entitled to the fundamental rights as guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan.

The petitioner quoted several clauses of the Constitution particularly Articles 4, 9, 10, 10-A, 14, 19, and 25 - and stated that those articles promise liberty, security of person, safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention, right to fair trial, due process, inviolability of human dignity, freedom of speech, and equal protection of the law

Read Reply sought on jail facilities for Cheema

Cheema contended that while the police filed a challan to a special judge in an anti-terrorism court (ATC) under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in FIR 108/2023 against only five accused, including himself, the FIR implicates approximately 400 individuals in the reported incident.

The said report under Section 173 of CrPC mentions the apprehension of numerous accused individuals, who were subsequently detained for identification parades, subjected to physical remands, or involved in investigative procedures before being discharged or remanded to judicial custody on various occasions.

The petitioner argued that obvious 'bad intentions' are apparent from the procedural mistakes and illegal actions.

Two additional PTI leaders, one of whom was an accused, were implicated in this case at a later stage, despite their prior incarceration since May 2023. Supplementary challan reports under section 173 of CrPC were once again submitted before the adjudicating trial court concerning their involvement.

Following the framing of charges on November 21, 2023, the court ordered the trial of the accused to be conducted within the confines of the central jail, under an order issued on October 4, 2023.

The approval was granted for the trial concerning the aforementioned FIR filed with the Sarwar Road police in central jail Lahore.

The petitioner implores that an examination of the contents of the impugned order reveals an absence of reference to the competent authority or cabinet approval, either at the provincial or federal level.

The former governor alleged that the order was issued by a section officer on behalf of the additional chief secretary. He added that according to Sections 15(2) and 21(2)(b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, only the government has the authority to issue such orders.

He implored that, therefore, the order is subject to being overturned.

The petitioner further asserted that the order was passed 'arbitrarily and unlawfully', without proper authority, as it fails to justify the issuing authority.

Cheema was arrested in connection with the arson, anarchy and chaos on May 9 followed by former PM Imran Khan’s arrest.

On February 6, the anti-terrorism court granted seven-day physical remand of PTI’s lawmakers including Cheema, Dr Yasmeen Rashid and others in a case registered against them over setting ablaze to PML-N’s office in response to May 9 riots.

Earlier this month, on April 8, a total of 20 suspects, who were tried by military courts in connection with the May 9 incidents were released following the confirmation of their sentences and subsequent remission of their punishments by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir.


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