LHC judge ignores ‘CJ’s note’ on diyat case hearing
By Abid Butt
LAHORE: Justice Fakhurun Nisa Khokhar of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday questioned a note apparently from the chief justice asking her to stop hearing a case regarding the release of women prisoners still in jail because they haven’t been able to pay diyat (compensation).
Chief Justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry said in the note dated January 9 that the fate of prisoners who have completed their jail terms but were still not free because they were too poor to pay compensation was pending adjudication in the Supreme Court. He said the Supreme Court had stayed the proceedings of such cases in the high courts and so asked Justice Khokhar to file the case away.
However, Justice Khokhar said the note had no legal value unless the orders in which the Supreme Court told the high courts to stop hearing such cases were sent to her through the LHC office.
“I, as judge of the high court, have passed a judicial order to the LHC office to convert simple applications from two women prisoners in Multan Jail into a habeus corpus petition and fix the matter for today (January 12). This judicial order can now only be set aside by a two-member bench of the High Court or through properly informing me of the SC’s restrictive orders on this issue,” she said. “That is why I have preferred to proceed and have asked the Punjab advocate general to appear on Tuesday and assist the court regarding the matter.”
Justice Khokhar took suo moto action on letters from two prisoners, Noorain Rani and Arshad Mai, and summoned the jail superintendent with their case record. The jail superintendent, Asmi, told the court that there were 305 women, including four foreigners and 82 women under-trial, in the jail. She said the jail only had room for 161 women prisoners. Thirteen women had completed their sentences but were still in prison because they couldn’t pay compensation.
Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) officials also appeared in court to assist the judge. LHCBA Vice President MM Alam, Secretary Muzammil Akhtar Shabbir and Finance Secretary Mumtaz Malik said the LHC could proceed with the case if the SC had not passed a restraining order. They said cases of such public importance should not be consigned to record.
Contempt petition against PTV MD: Justice Syed Jamshed Ali of the Lahore High Court (LHC), in a contempt petition on Monday, asked the Pakistan Television (PTV) managing director (MD) to submit a written reply within four weeks to explain why he should not be prosecuted for contempt of court. Syed Ahmed Ali, the petitioner, asked the court to prosecute the PTV MD for neglecting court orders under which he was asked to account for his allegedly illegal appointment of two producers. Mr Ali said that despite clear orders from the court, the respondent had not replied, which amounted to contempt of court.