Torturing lawyers: SC sets asides conviction of four Sahiwal policemen

SC says decisions by judges should not be construed as having any element of vindictiveness

Hasnaat Malik July 22, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The apex court has set aside the conviction awarded to four police officials, who had tortured lawyers in Sahiwal in 2007 during the movement for the restoration of judiciary.

The Supreme Court’s judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa authored the judgment over appeals against Lahore High Court’s (LHC) July 24, 2013 order, in which two senior police officers were acquitted but conviction of four policemen was upheld.

“We set aside convictions of the policemen-appellants under sections 148, 149, 324, 333-L(2), 452 PPC and 7(h) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and instead … sentence them to simple imprisonment for a period of two years each... With such modification in sentence Criminal Appeal No.4 of 2015 is dismissed,” said the judgment.

The judgment further said it was a matter of great pride for the legal community and civil society at large to have peacefully ensured the restoration of the illegally deposed judges.

“However, having successfully attained this cherished goal one ought to be magnanimous and a heavy burden has been cast upon us all to ensure that actions by lawyers and decisions by the judges should not be construed as having any element of vindictiveness or uncalled for severity and every possible benefit of doubt be extended to the accused, as we have endeavoured to do in this case,” it said.

The judgment said the police are a disciplined force and deployed policemen are required to abide by the orders issued to them. “However, it does not follow that they should throw caution to the winds and abide by the order of a career serving officer who wants to ingratiate himself with politicians,” the verdict noted.

The court said that the taking out of rallies by the lawyers in those days was a common occurrence and the participants of such rallies had never taken the law into their own hands or caused any damage to property, therefore, there was no justification to restrain the lawyers who had gathered on the fateful day from doing so.

The petitioner had claimed that the police on May 4, 2007 tortured peaceful members of Sahiwal’s legal fraternity, staging a protest in support of the deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Earlier, counsel for the police, Syed Iftikhar Hussain Gillani, said the official who was given the preeminent role in the complaint, namely DPO Javed Hussain Shah, was let off at the leave granting stage by the petitioner as the petition to his extent was not pressed despite the fact that the name of the said DPO appears thirteen times in the complaint.

“The entire case of the complainant was that the DPO acted on the orders of the then Chief Minister [Pervaiz Elahi]. However, no complaint was preferred against the chief minister,” he said.

“It was next contended that if the complainant is to be believed then it was the DPO who had issued orders and was therefore guilty, however, his subordinates had no option but to abide by his orders and it does not stand to reason that the principal accused is let off and those who were allegedly following orders were prosecuted, convicted and sentenced,” he argued.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2015. 

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