Can a civil judge issue warrants to arrest an assistant commissioner?

A few months ago, an AC reportedly got into a heated argument with a civil judge when he appeared in the court. The judge ordered his staff to detain the AC and handcuff him before shifting him to jail. Here is what the IHC has to say.

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Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Thursday directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against persons involved in anti-judiciary propaganda on YouTube and elsewhere.

The CJ was hearing a petition against a strike/protest observed by public servants in support of the former assistant commissioner of Sahiwal who was got handcuffed by a civil judge for defying a judicial order.

The chief justice rejected a written reply submitted by former assistant commissioner Muhammad Haider as unsatisfactory. The officer in his reply held the civil judge responsible for the events which took place in the court. He also denied having participated in any protest and claimed to have great respect for the courts.

However, a report filed by an additional district & sessions judge of Sahiwal revealed that the AC had shouted in the court with a claim that the civil judge had no jurisdiction to issue his arrest warrants. The report also disclosed that the AC had also threatened to lock the court.

Chief Justice Khan asked a Punjab government’s lawyer whether the AC could remain in the service after the report of the sessions judge on the incident. The CJ also expressed dismay over the Nadra for not submitting the record of the government officials who held protests holding placards and banners inscribed with contemptuous slogans. He remarked that all the departments had been playing in the hands of the bureaucrats.

During the last hearing, CJ Khan also ordered the Pemra to identify, with the support of Nadra, the protesters who were allegedly holding placards and banners inscribed with “contemptuous” slogans at the protest. “You reportedly claimed to shut the courts,” the CJ asked the AC who denied having made any such claim. “I cannot even think of this,” Mr Haider replied.

The CJ observed that contempt proceedings would be initiated against the officials involved in the strike/protests if the government failed to remove them from service. The chief justice also directed the FIA to submit a complete detail of the assets owned by PMS officer Azeem Shaukat Awan, who allegedly chanted anti-judiciary slogans at the protest.

The CJ directed the law officer to submit a fresh affidavit on behalf of Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan. An earlier affidavit filed by the special assistant was not accepted by the court.

The CJ had sought the affidavit from Ms Awan as she had held a press conference on the issue, which the court deemed as contempt. The hearing was adjourned for a month and Pemra’s chairman was exempted from personal appearance on the next hearings.

Read more: How bureaucracy of Pakistan could have reformed?

Sahiwal’s then civil judge Muhammad Naeem had summoned [then] AC Haider in a case against encroachments in the city. The officer failed to appear before the court despite several notices and the civil judge finally issued warrants for his arrest. The AC, reportedly, got into a heated argument with the judge when he appeared in the court. The judge ordered his staff to detain the AC and handcuff him before shifting him to jail.

However, some lawyers intervened in the matter and the AC tendered an apology before the court after which he was released. Later, administrative and revenue staff in different parts of the province went on a strike against the treatment meted out to the AC.

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