LAHORE, Pakistan: The Lahore High Court (LHC) full bench on Tuesday ordered the Punjab government to provide the report of judicial inquiry into 2014 Model Town incident to legal heirs of the victims immediately and make it public within 30 days.
The bench observed that the report should not affect the trial of the incident, pending before an anti-terrorism court.
The bench, comprising Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh, Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad passed the orders while dismissing three appeals, filed by the Punjab government and two others challenging a single bench’s order for making the inquiry report public.
The bench had reserved the verdict after hearing arguments of the parties on November 24 and it was announced in open court on Tuesday.
A single bench, comprising Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi had on September 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.
The provincial government, through its home secretary, challenged the decision saying that the government had ordered the Model Town inquiry for its own consumption, and it was its discretion to make the report public or not.
Punjab government’s counsel Khawaja Haris, in his arguments, submitted that the 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.
He said that if implementation of the fundamental rights affects others’ rights, then the fundamental rights could be suspended.
He said that two FIRs were registered in connection with the Model Town incident, and were pending before an anti-terrorism court. If the Model Town report was made public, it would affect the right to fair trial of the parties, he added.
He also submitted that the respondents did not approach the single bench with clean hands, as they did not move an application for provision of the Model Town inquiry report to the authority concerned first, as an alternative 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 the first petition on the subject.
Haris further submitted the single bench had ordered the release of the Model Town report, though six identical petitions were pending before a full bench. Three of the said petitions were referred to the full bench by different single benches after coming to know that identical petitions were being heard by it, he added.
He questioned as to why the single bench did not refer the matter to the full bench after the law officer pointed out that identical petitions were pending before the 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 on 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 the full bench were not filed by the aggrieved parties, he added.
He further questioned the silence of the heirs of the victims, saying that why they did not file the petition for two years.
He assailed single bench’s orders by saying that no notice under Article 27-A was issued to the advocate general for assistance, whereas it was a mandatory step for hearing such matters.
He pleaded with the bench to set aside the single bench orders for release of the report.
However, counsel for the respondents-heirs of Model Town incident victims – Barrister Ali Zafar, Advocate Khawaja Tariq Rahim and Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique pleaded with the bench to set aside the appeal and uphold the single bench order. They mainly based their arguments on the right to information, terming it mother of all fundamental rights.