LHC puts Imran’s bail pleas off day’s cause list
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) cause list for Wednesday, which included the former prime minister Imran Khan’s plea challenging the dismissal of his pre-arrest bails by the anti-terrorism court (ATC) in seven cases, was cancelled without prior notice.
A division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC), led by Justice Aalia Neelum, was supposed to hear the regular cases on the cause list. However, due to a prior engagement, the cases on the cause list were cancelled.
Imran had challenged the ATC’s decision to dismiss his pre-arrest bail in seven different cases, including the Jinnah House attack case.
In his petition, filed through Barrister Salman Safdar, the former prime minister had argued that he is currently in Attock jail due to the imprisonment imposed by the trial court in the Toshakhana case. Therefore, he questioned how it could be possible to ensure his presence in court when he is in jail.
The petitioner found himself implicated in seven cases involving offences under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in conjunction with Sections 6/7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
To avoid arrest, Imran obtained protective bail from LHC and voluntarily surrendered before an ATC judge. Subsequently, ad-interim pre-arrest bail was granted for all seven cases, and he also cooperated with the investigation.
He also made physical appearances before the trial court and continued to present himself before ATC. However, despite these efforts, the bail petitions were not heard, and the cases were adjourned after marking attendance.
The ATC considered the comprehensive arguments presented by both parties about two pre-arrest bail applications associated with case FIR No. 388/23 and 410/23, ultimately reserving the same for a final order.
On August 8, 2023, all seven bail applications, filed under Section 498 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, were set for final arguments and a verdict before ATC in Lahore. On behalf of the petitioner, an application was presented seeking an exemption from personal appearance, along with a prayer requesting an order for the petitioner’s production from Attock Jail.
Subsequently, notices were issued to the state, and the case was scheduled for August 11 to determine the maintainability of the application filed on behalf of the petitioner, with the following direction: “An application is submitted on behalf of petitioner Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi for his exemption on the ground that he is in prison and is unable to attend the court and requested an adjournment while dispensing with his attendance. Since the accused/petitioner is a convicted prisoner, notice to the prosecution is also given, and learned counsel for the petitioner is directed to argue upon the point of the maintainability of said application”.
Regrettably, instead of rendering a judgment based on the merits of the pending pre-arrest bail applications and simply ordering the petitioner’s production from Attock jail, the ATC judge dismissed all seven bail applications due to the petitioner’s non-appearance before the court.
The petitioner now seeks its annulment primarily on the following grounds:
(A) The Impugned Order dated August 11, 2023, violates the principles enshrined in Article 4 and 10-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.
(B) The scope of Article 10-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, extends beyond just trials and encompasses all stages of proceedings, including bail and investigation.
(C) The petitioner’s absence was neither intentional nor deliberate, and Learned Respondent No.1 failed to properly grasp the actual facts and circumstances surrounding the matter.
(D) The precedent set by the Judgment of the Supreme Court reported as PLD 2021 SC 886 has been misapplied and erroneously interpreted in isolation.
(E) The ATC Judge did not appropriately exercise their unrestricted powers and discretion vested under Section 21-D of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
(F) On August 9, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, while handling the petitioner’s Pre-Arrest Bail, explicitly directed the investigating authority not to apprehend the petitioner in that specific case.
(G) Since the Supreme Court of Pakistan did not dismiss the petitioner’s Pre-Arrest Bail due to absence on August 9, 2023, the Impugned Order dated August 11, 2023, passed by the ATC judge is in clear violation of the law and directly conflicts with the order issued by the apex Court on August 9.