–IHC grants bail to 23 activists held on sedition charge for protesting against PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen’s arrest
–Officials inform IHC that police has replaced sedition charge against protesters with 7-ATA
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday granted post-arrest bail to activists who had been detained for protesting against the arrest of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the plea and granted bail to 23 activists belonging to PTM and Awami Workers Party (AWP).
At the outset of the hearing, the Islamabad deputy commissioner and deputy inspector general of police informed the court that Section 124-A (sedition) of the Pakistan Penal Code had been deleted from the First Information Report (FIR) against the activists. Instead, the investigating officer has added Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, in the case against them, the IHC was told.
The IHC in its written order noted that, “A plain reading of the FIR shows that the offences mentioned therein are, prima facie, not attracted. There is also no material on the record in support of the assertions made in the FIR.”
The court also observed that Additional District and Sessions Judge Mohammad Sohail, who had last week declined to grant post-arrest bail to the PTM activists saying prima facie it was a terrorism case, “appears to have exceeded jurisdiction by making observations [regarding terrorism …] without having regard to the recently enunciated law by the august Supreme Court regarding scope of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997”.
“Moreover, the observations recorded by the learned judge are not in consonance with the principles of fair trial,” the order said.
During the hearing, Justice Minallah expressed his displeasure at the Islamabad police chief’s absence from the court.
“We did not expect this of your government. You are the representative of the state here, it is the state’s job to protect its people,” Justice Minallah said to the deputy commissioner while adding that the government should admit if they are in the wrong.
“We will get to the bottom of this case. How could you question someone’s patriotism? Do you think constitutional courts will shut their eyes on a matter like this?” the chief justice remarked while giving the deputy commissioner a week’s time to consult the Islamabad IGP and come up with a report on the incident.
The chief justice had, on Saturday, sought an explanation from the capital police and the district administration for invoking the offence of sedition against these protesters.
The court had also ordered the Islamabad deputy commissioner and the police chief to produce the complete record related to the arrest of the activists on Feb 3.
The counsel for the petitioners — Ammar Rashid and others — had contended before the chief justice that “the case has been registered against the petitioners on the basis of mala fide”.
He had also questioned the order issued by the additional district and sessions court dismissing the post-arrest bail petitions of the detained activists, saying it was “arbitrary and not in consonance with the settled principles of law”. Terming the district court’s decision a serious miscarriage of justice, the counsel also said invoking offence of sedition against unarmed peaceful citizens was misuse of authority.
The hearing was adjourned until February 11.