KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has observed that the provincial home secretary had failed to apply his independent mind sufficiently to the material produced by the police for the 90-day detention under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance, 1960 of the five men acquitted in the murder case of rights activist Perween Rahman.
The SHC also noted that the Sindh government had yet to approach the apex court to get impugned the acquittal order while the complainant was believed to have filed an appeal against only one of the five exonerated persons before the apex court.
It said the police had acted in a mala fide way in their overzealousness to appease the public and media without giving sufficient weight to the liberty of the petitioner and four others.
The whole exercise leading up to the issuance of the order was a colourful exercise of authority by the executive as no reasonable person, based on the material which was placed before the home secretary, could have been satisfied of thenecessity of issuing the detention order, it added Led by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, a two-judge bench made such observations while issuing over the weekend the detailed judgement of its Dec 12 short order that struck down the detention order issued by the provincial authorities and held the same to be illegal and issued without lawful authority.
The detailed order also noted that the Sindh government used all means possible to detain the acquitted persons under the MPO or other preventive detention law on spurious grounds.
Such tactics had already been deployed and exposed by the SHC in the cases of Abdul Hameed Bugti, acquitted in the PIDC car bombing, and Ahmed Omar Shaikh, exonerated in the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl, where all mala fide and devious efforts were made by the Sindh government to ensure that the acquitted persons remained behind the bars, it added.
The bench said that in its letter to the IGP, the SSP-West described the acquitted persons as hardened criminals despite the fact that they did not have any criminal record exceptfor the present case and there was no material available to the SSP and his letter was based on presumptions and assumptions alone.
It also noted that the so-called intelligence report had not even been prepared by anindependent body like the Intelligence Bureau or ISI, while the IGP had a conflict of interest in relying onsuch report.
`In fact, prior to issuing the order, no report from any other organisation/body was considered by the SSP-West, IGP or the home secretary,` it added.
The bench said the word `satisfaction` was used in the MPO and as such the home secretary must be satisfied that based on the material placed before him, the other consequences referred to in the order might flow.
`In our view that standard must be high as no person can be lightly deprived of his right to life and liberty, especially if they have already spent nine years in jail and have been acquitted by the appellate court and at the time of issuing the order, the government of Sindh had not even lodged an appeal against the acquittal before the Supreme Court and had even not done so by the date of this hearing being over three weeks after the acquittal judgment,` it added.
Imran Swati, one of the acquitted persons, through his lawyer had petitioned the SHC to get impugned the Dec 1 detention order issued by the home department on the recommendation of IGP for the detention of all Eve men for a period of three months.
Ms Rahman, a renowned social worker and former head of the Orangi Pilot Project, was gunned down near her office on Manghopir Road on March 13, 2013.
On Nov 21, the same bench had exonerated Eve appellants after overturning their conviction handed down by the trial court in Ms Rahman murder case.