A two-member bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday suspended, till the next hearing, an order of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) granting “blanket bail” to various PTI leaders, including former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser, in cases initiated against them after the May 9 riots.
Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Mussarat Hilali issued the suspension order for the PHC’s August ruling after a hearing on an appeal by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government against it. In its order, the PHC had also barred police from arresting any of the four respondents—Qaiser, Rangaiz Ahmed, Aqibullah, and Attaullah—in any criminal case without prior permission of the court. It had also issued a circular to all judicial officers of the province to this effect.
Issuing notices to the respondents, the SC bench directed their counsel, Sher Afzal Marwat, to advance his arguments in the next hearing. This is the second time a Justice Masood-led bench has questioned the issuance of blanket bail orders. Earlier this month, a two-member bench had similarly suspended orders of the Lahore High Court granting blanket bail to PTI President Parvez Elahi.
During Thursday’s proceedings, KP Additional Advocate General (AAG) Mohammad Nisar informed the court the respondents were nominated in a FIR registered at the Swabi Police Station on June 2 under sections 409 and 162 of the Pakistan Penal Code, as well as Section 5(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947. Separately, he said, they were also booked under terrorism charges for their alleged involvement in the May 9 riots.
According to the AAG, the respondents had filed a writ petition before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) under Section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for transitory bail, stating they wished to approach the relevant anti-corruption court. The high court had subsequently granted this until July 24, with the AAG saying they had never approached the relevant court.
After the expiry of the IHC order, argued the AAG, the respondents had filed another application before the Abbottabad sessions judge. He alleged they had concealed the transitory bail they had already been granted and the sessions judge had issued fresh transitory bail and directed the respondents to approach the relevant anti-corruption court. Instead of doing so, said Nisar, the PTI leaders had moved the PHC, which had granted them another bail.
After authorities Rangaiz en route to Swabi, said the prosecutor, the matter had been referred to the PHC chief justice, who had directed the authority concerned to produce the PTI leader and had then ordered his release without any bail application or bond and barred authorities from arresting him in any other criminal case. The manner in which this bail was granted, argued Nisar, had “stifled” the entire scheme of the criminal procedure code. The PHC had also sent a circular to this effect to all district and sessions judges.
“Thus the PHC order was full of illegalities,” argued the AAG, adding freeing the accused on a “cognizable offense without bail application or mandate of Section 498-A of CrPC through an omnibus order of not arresting the accused who may be on an interim bail on a petty matter was against the law.” He stressed that blanket orders against arresting a person were against the scheme of the criminal procedure.