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Challenging week for city courts.

LAHORE -- It was a busy week for the province's judiciary as the authority of the LHC chief justice to form a full bench in the Model Town massacre was challenged, while the rift between the bar and the bench is also likely to widen after a lawyer was sentenced to 18 years by an anti-terrorism court for assaulting a judge.

There was also the matter of including Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) in a suo moto case involving the infamous land grabber Mansha Bomb. In another development over the last week, three judges recused themselves from hearing two separate cases against Prime Minister Imran Khan

First up, an appeal was filed with the Supreme Court's Registry which challenged the formation of a full bench and ultimately restricted a newly-formed joint investigation team from probing the Model Town massacre. The petitioner asked how a case could be withdrawn from a bench unless its members forward a request for the formation of a larger bench.

Meanwhile, tensions between the bar and the bench reached a boiling point when an ATC in Faisalabad sentenced a lawyer to 18 years in jail for injuring a civil judge in a courtroom. After the verdict, the legal fraternity was divided over the matter as some lawyers criticised the Punjab Bar Council, Jaranwala Bar Association and other representatives for not taking timely steps to protect the lawyer in question. Others wanted to launch an anti-judiciary campaign on social media.

Some black coats could be seen instigating young lawyers against different bars, urging them to take to the streets to seek justice for the convict. On the other hand, some lawyers thought differently, arguing the verdict should be challenged through legal means in the superior courts. In general, the legal fraternity questioned the decision, asking how a man could be sentenced to 18 years, under sections, merely for throwing a chair towards a judge. Observers raised their doubts over this form of 'speedy justice' and asked why this trial was completed in five days when some cases linger on for much longer.

Moving onto the case against Mansha Bomb, doubts emerged over the deletion of 7 ATA from a case against the infamous land grabber. When the section was initially applied, the matter was being heard by the country's then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

Legal experts questioned whether it was appropriate to include the section in this case. Some were in agreement that none of the stakeholders stopped to think whether it was appropriate to include this section. Interestingly, the prosecution department, while preparing its report, pointed out that Section 7 ATA could not be applied in such cases, yet it allowed the challan to proceed and did not remove it.

Lawyers said the former CJP should have also taken notice of the matter, but he ignored it and Mansha Bomb, as well as his family members, faced problems as a result. Ultimately, an anti-terrorism court ordered that the section be removed after heated arguments from the defence and prosecution counsels.

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Finally, another key development of the week was LHC justices Atir Mahmood and Shahid Karim recusing themselves from a petition seeking details of Prime Minister Imran Khan's foreign trips. Both the judges bowed out due to personal reasons.

Similarly, Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza recused himself on the same grounds from a petition seeking Imran Khan's disqualification for allegedly committing civil disobedience and inciting people to not pay taxes PML-N's regime.

Looking forward, the LHC will take up a matter in which PTI politician Jahangir Tareen's alleged interference in state matters was challenged. The court also sought a reply from the federal government and the Federal Board of Revenue, by June 28, on a petition, seeking an order to annul the Amnesty Scheme which provides relief to defaulters.

Meanwhile, the court sought a report from the Lahore DCO, District Price Control Committee and DG Food, by May 30, on a petition against skyrocketing prices of food items in Ramazan.
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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:May 27, 2019
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