Setting the path


The issue of the disappearance of 11 prisoners from Adiala jail has caused a highly undesirable confrontation between the SC and three top security agencies. The controversy is likely to drag the Punjab administration also into the conflict as its Home Department had taken the stand that the prisoners had been taken away from the jail by the agencies which is a violation of the law. The two-point stand taken by the chiefs of the ISI, MI, and IB is that the prisoners are not in their custody and that they, or the agencies they were heading, could not be made respondents in constitutional petitions. As the CJ put it a day earlier while hearing a case against Punjab police officers, anyone who is considering himself above the law should be taken to task.

The ISI is justified in maintaining that it has not been given a charter defining its scope and limitations. Presumably, the other two agencies have also not been provided charters spelling out the sphere of their activities and the rules and regulations governing these activities in black and white. There is a need on the part of the government to prepare a law properly defining the duties the security agencies are required to perform and making it clear that they must not in any circumstances violate the laws of the land. The government should then take the proposed law to the Parliament for approval. This said, the agencies have to realize that even in the absence of the charters they are required to work within the purview of the constitution which provides well-defined guarantees regarding life and liberty to the citizens.

The agencies are being accused of being behind the disappearance of hundreds of people in violation of the laws that define a procedure governing arrests and punishments. No civilised society deprives a citizen of his life or liberty in any way other than defined in these laws. What the SC has all along been doing is to ensure that the laws are not violated and the guarantees given to the citizen in the constitution are respected. There is need for all to avoid challenging the apex court on the issue.