The Express Tribune. A full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC), on Tuesday, ordered the Punjab Government to release contents of the Model Town judicial inquiry report within 30 days.
Headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh, the bench ordered that the report be handed over to the affectees of the 2014 incident, which left 14 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers dead, within three days.
The court rejected an Intra-Court Appeal (ICA) filed by the Punjab government challenging the September 21 ruling by a single bench consisting of Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi ordering Punjab home secretary to make the report public while allowing a petition filed by the heirs of the Model Town incident victims. The Punjab Government argued that their version had not been heard.
The full bench had reserved the verdict on November 24 after hearing the arguments of the Punjab government counsel Khawaja Harris in the rebuttal of contentions raised by the counsel of the Model Town victims.
Contradicting the respondents’ arguments, including the provision of information under Article 19 (A), Khawaja Haris submitted that the right to information was subject to reasonable restrictions. He had submitted it was feared that public and social order would be disturbed if the report was made public, whereas the government was duty-bound to maintain it.
He said if the implementation of fundamental rights was affected, then other conventions could be suspended.
The counsel stated that two FIRs were registered in connection with Model Town incident and these were pending before an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC). “If the Model Town report was made public, it would definitely affect the right of fair trial of the parties.”
In the aftermath of the incident, a judicial tribunal headed by LHC’s Justice Ali Baqar Najafi had been constituted to find out facts and fix responsibility on the perpetrators.
The commission completed the inquiry and submitted the report to the Punjab government on August 9, 2014. However, the government refused to make it public.
The victims had then petitioned the high court through Barrister Syed Ali Zafar who argued that releasing the inquiry report was clearly a matter of public interest, and the government was bound under the law to give the required information to the general public.