CJP stays all actions in Meerwala gang rape case -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

CJP stays all actions in Meerwala gang rape case

ISLAMABAD,March 15 2005: Taking notice of the uproar over the acquittal of all convicts but one in the Mukhtiar Mai gang rape case by Lahore High Court and subsequent intervention by Federal Shariat Court, Chief Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui has stayed all proceedings, and summoned the Advocate General of the Punjab and the relevant record of the case. In a suo motu order issued here n Monday, the Chief Justice said that files of the two cases, one before the LHC and the other before the FSC, should be summoned from the concerned courts within a week.

He also ordered issuance of notice to Mukhtiar Mai and of bailable warrants of arrest against the acquitted persons that should be returnable to the District and Sessions Judge of Multan.

The Supreme Court office will fix the next hearing, according to the order.The order also took notice of latest reports in the media about contempt proceedings initiated before Lahore High Court against Mukhtiar Mai, and this under suo motu action stood suspended.

The Chief Justice, however, did not see with favour the intervention by FSC in the matter and held that it was coram non judice (without jurisdiction) in the light of its own judgement of 1991 (Maskin Shah versus the State), saying that it has no revisional powers in a case decided by a High Court.

This view was upheld by the Supreme Court two years later and reiterated by the Chief Justice in his order, saying that it was not visualised by the Constitution and the law.

While assuming powers of hearing and throwing out the LHC order, the FSC had based its action on Article 203DD of the Constitution.

THE CHIEF JUSTICE’S ORDER READS: “The case of Mst Mukhtiar Mai, resident of village Meerwala Jatoi, District Multan, a victim of gang rape committed in the public at the behest of a jirga of the vicinity, was tried by an Anti-Terrorism Court at Multan, wherein a judgement of conviction was rendered. The convicts filed appeals before the Lahore High Court, Multan Bench.

Vide its judgement dated 3.3.2005, a Division Bench of that court partially allowed the same, maintained conviction of one accused, altering his sentence from death to imprisonment for life, and acquitted the rest of them.

Before the matter could be brought before this Court, either by the complainant, the State or anyone else, the print and electronic media and the NGOs took extraordinary interest in it. There was a flood of press reports, comments and articles about the judgement delivered by the High Court, and the matter was thus blown out of proportion.

“What added fuel to the fire was an order passed suo motu by the Federal Shariat Court thereby, inter alia, suspending the operation of the judgement of the Lahore High Court, a course not visualised by the Construction and the law. Clearly, the judgements of the High Court can be challenged before this Court under Article 185 of the Constitution and the proceedings initiated by the Federal Shariat Court, prima facie, are coram non judice.

The Federal Shariat Court in its own judgement in Syed Maskin Shah v. The State (Criminal Revision Petition No 5-K/1991) held that it does not have revisional jurisdiction under Article 203DD of the Constitution in respect of an order passed by a High Court. This view was approved by this Court in the case reported as State v. Mst Iqbal Bibi (1993 SCMR 935).

“As per press reports, some contempt proceedings in the meantime have also been initiated in the Lahore High Court in this matter and thus, a new dimension added to this controversy.

“In the circumstances, the proceedings initiated at the Federal Shariat Court as well as the Multan Bench of the Lahore High Court are stayed. The files of the two cases be summoned from the concerned courts within a week. Notices shall be issued to the Advocate General Punjab and the complainant. Bailable warrants of arrest against the acquitted accused, returnable to the Sessions Judge, Multan, be issued for a date in office.”
Source: Business Recorder
Date:3/15/2005