LHC reserves Model Town report verdict on Punjab govt appeal

F.P. Report

LAHORE: A Lahore High Court (LHC) full bench on Friday reserved its verdict on an Intra-Court Appeal (ICA) filed by the Punjab government challenging a LHC single bench order for making the Model Town inquiry report public.

Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh headed the full bench with Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad. The bench reserved the verdict after hearing the arguments of Punjab government’s counsel Khawaja Haris in rebuttal of contentions raised by the counsel of respondents-heirs of the Model Town incident victims.

Contradicting the respondents’ arguments including provision of information under Article 19 (A), Khawaja Haris submitted that right to information was subject to reasonable restrictions.

He submitted that it was feared that the public and social order would be disturbed if the report was made public whereas the government was duty bound to maintain it. Justice Sheikh said that if the implementation of fundamental rights affect the other rights then the fundamental rights could be suspended.

He said that two FIRs were registered in connection with Model Town incident and these were pending before an anti-terrorism court. If the Model Town report was made public then it would definitely affect the right of fair trial of the parties, he added.

He submitted the government ordered the Model Town inquiry for its use and it was his discretion to make the report public or not.

He also submitted that the respondents did not approach the single bench with clean hands as they did not move application for provision of Model Town inquiry report to the concerned authority first as an alternate remedy.

He said that the heirs failed to point out that the identical petitions were being heard by a full bench and claimed that it was first petition on the subject.

Haris further submitted the single bench ordered to release the Model Town report despite the fact that six identical petitions were pending before a full bench. Three of the said petitions were referred to full bench by different single benches on knowing that identical petitions were being heard by it, he added.

He questioned then why the single bench did not refer the matter to full bench after the law officer pointed out that identical petitions were pending before full bench.

He said that the single bench held in its detailed order that the petitions pending before the full bench were filed by petitioners who were not aggrieved persons. He contended that Idara Minhaj ul Quran was an aggrieved party as the incident took place at its premises and it was included among the petitioners who had filed the said six petitions. Then how it could be said that the petitions pending before full bench were not filed by the aggrieved parties, he added.

He further questioned silence of the heirs of the victims saying that why they did not file the petition for two years.

Haris observed that no notice under Article 27 A was issued to the advocate general for assistance whereas it was a mandatory step for hearing such matter. He pleaded with the bench to set aside the single bench orders for release of the report.

The bench after hearing arguments reserved its verdict on the appeal. It is pertinent to mention here that Barrister Ali Zafar, Advocate Khawaja Tariq Rahim and Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique represented the respondents and pleaded with the bench to set aside the appeal and upheld the single benchorders.

A single bench comprising Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi had, on Sept 21, ordered the Punjab home secretary to make the Model Town report public while allowing a petition filed by heirs of Model Town incident victims.