Magistrates don’t read case files carefully

Cheque fraud accused given in police custody after challan submitted.

Rana Yasif December 21, 2011


Two magistrates at the Cantt Courts violated judicial procedure in granting the police physical remand of a man accused of cheque fraud, even though his trial had begun and he was in judicial custody.

Judicial Magistrates Malik Asif Awan and Imran Yousaf both admitted they had been wrong to remand Muhammad Arshad in police custody. Astonishingly, both also admitted they had not read the case file before granting remand. Arshad is accused of giving a Rs2.5 million cheque to famous singer Ataullah Esakhelvi that bounced.

District and Sessions Judge Mujahid Mustaqeem Ahmed told The Express Tribune he was disappointed at the violation of judicial procedure. He pledged to look into the matter personally and take action against the magistrates.

The police must produce a suspect arrested for a crime before a magistrate within 24 hours and seek the magistrate’s permission to keep him in physical custody for interrogation and investigation. Once the police have gathered their evidence during the period of physical remand, they submit a challan detailing the charges against the suspect. Having made out their case against the accused, the suspect is then normally sent to judicial lockup pending trial.

Arshad was arrested and produced before Awan by Civil Lines police for the first time on March 10, 2011. The police sought, and were granted, three days to keep him in custody and try to recover the Rs2.5 million he owed the singer. His physical remand ended on March 14 and he was sent to judicial lock-up. That same day, he agreed to pay off the debt and was granted post-arrest bail.

On May, 31 the challan detailing the charges against Arshad was submitted in Awan’s court. A bail cancellation plea was moved on June 13, on the grounds that he had failed to pay the agreed amount too.

Civil Lines police again arrested Arshad on November 4. Sub Inspector Ghulam Rasool presented the accused in Awan’s court the next day and asked that police be allowed to keep him in custody for the next seven days. Although the police application included a note about the bail cancellation, the magistrate granted two days remand, suggesting that he did not read the application.

On November 7, his two-day remand over, Arshad was produced before Magistrate Imran Yousaf, who was the duty judge that day. Yousaf remanded him in police custody for another three days. On November 10, the accused was once again produced in Awan’s court and remanded in police custody for a further three days.

His next appearance was before Magistrate Tanveer Ahmed. Esakhelvi’s counsel Advocate M Asif Chattha and Advocate M Naeem Malik asked the judge why proceedings in the case were being held without them. They complained that neither the police nor the courts had informed them of the physical remand hearings. They asked why Arshad had been remanded in police custody when he had already been sent to judicial lock-up.

The judge summoned the investigation officer in the case for November 14 to explain the situation and sent Arshad to jail. The investigation officer did not turn up on November 14.

Arshad’s lawyers Chattha and Malik said that they were not summoned by the court when the police sought their client’s physical remand. They said that the police should have submitted a revision plea seeking to set aside the judicial lockup order if they wanted further physical remand.

Chattha said that the prosecutor had been negligent as he had not kept tabs on what was happening in the case. He said that the judges’ actions were illegal and incompetent.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Awan admitted that it was wrong for an accused sent to judicial lockup to be later given into police custody. Asked to explain, he said he had not read the case file and had forgotten that he had already sent the accused to judicial lockup. “This happened because of an overload of cases,” he said.

Yousaf also said he had made mistakes in the case because of case overload, while also suggesting that he had been duped by the police, as he had been handed the case files directly by the police rather than forwarded by a prosecutor, as is standard practice. “The officials did not tell me he had already been sent to judicial lockup. Neither did the accused,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2011.


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