Model Town inquiry report: LHC seeks summary of lawyer’s posting as private counsel for govt

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed a senior lawyer to furnish a summary of his appointment as the private counsel by the Punjab government to represent it in its appeal against a decision for release of the Model Town inquiry report.

A three-judge full bench sought the summary after a lawyer opposing the appeal objected to appearance of Khwaja Harris advocate as a counsel for the provincial government. Citing a judgement of the Supreme Court, Azhar Siddique advocate said the governments could not engage private lawyers in the presence of attorney general, advocate general and other law officers. He said the government was required to furnish tangible reasons for the appointment of a private counsel.

However, Harris advocate said such condition was specifically for the federal government and not for the provincial governments. He said rules of business of the Punjab government did not carry a blanket ban on engaging private lawyers. Moreover, he said, the law secretary issued a summary of his appointment to represent the government in the case. The summary, he added, would be furnished for the consideration of the bench.

Resuming his arguments, Mr Harris mainly questioned the manner in which a single bench heard and decided a petition moved by the heirs of the Model Town incident’s victims for the release of Justice Ali Baqar Najafi’s report. He said the same matter was already pending before a full bench for the last two years when the single bench decided an identical petition.

Mr Harris also questioned the single bench for deciding locus standi (right to be heard in court) of the petitions pending before the full bench, saying there had been a procedural impropriety by the single bench.

Mr Harris pointed out that the petition decided by the single bench was a replica of petitions pending before the full bench. He said the lawyers of the petitioners had misled the single bench by saying, “this is the first petition on subject matter”. He said the single bench, instead of taking action against the petitioners, went on to decide the matter.

As the arguments of the government’s counsel were in progress, the full bench adjourned further hearing for a day.

Earlier, Ali Zia Bajwa advocate argued on behalf of a police official, complainant in one of the FIRs of the 2014 incident, and sought the court’s permission to become a necessary party in the case. He said the decision of the single bench, if implemented, would affect the trial of the petitioner and others officials pending before an anti-terrorism court on a private complaint moved by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).

On behalf of the respondents, Khwaja Tariq Rahim advocate, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar and Azhar Siddique opposed the petition and said the petitioner was not a party in the case before the single bench. Therefore, he could not challenge the decision through an intra-court appeal, they said. However, the bench issued notice to the respondents to decide maintainability of the appeal.

Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh headed the full bench with Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad.

A single bench comprising Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi had, on Sept 21, ordered the Punjab home secretary to make public the Justice Najafi’s report and also provide the same to the families of the victims of the incident.