Another LHC bench recuses from hearing Maryam’s passport plea

A division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has, for the second time, recused itself from hearing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s plea seeking the return of her passport to travel to Saudi Arabia for performing Umrah.

Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Farooq Haider were hearing the petition on Tuesday when Justice Najafi remarked that his colleague was not willing to hear the case due to unrevealed reasons. The case file was then sent to Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, with a request to place the matter before a bench by today.

Yesterday, Justice Najafi had issued a notice to concerned quarters, seeking a reply by April 26 (today).

Earlier, another division bench headed by Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi had denied hearing the petition filed by the PML-N leader, remarking that the petitioner should seek a response from the court that had granted her bail. The second judge on that bench was Justice Anwaarul Haq Pannu.

The petition was subsequently forwarded to the LHC chief justice who sent the petition to the Justice Najafi-led bench.

The PML-N leader in her petition had requested the court to pass orders to the deputy registrar to return her passport which she had surrendered before him complying with LHC’s order on October 31, 2019. The petitioner had been granted post-arrest bail and was required to submit her passport before the authority.

Read LHC bench refuses to hear Maryam’s plea for passport

In her plea, Maryam implored that freedom of movement was a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, adding, that the condition imposed through the order was tantamount to the deprivation of her rights.

“There is settled law that mere registration of a case or institution of criminal proceedings does not automatically imply that the accused should be disallowed to move outside Pakistan,” she said, adding that registration of a criminal case would not be a ground for depriving a citizen of the exercise of his or her constitutional right.

“The condition as to surrender of a passport is alien to statutory requirements to enlarge an accused on bail, had it been the intention of the legislature then it would have made the corresponding provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure 18989 or any other special enactments for the trial of offences.”

She stated that even the NAO 1999 does not contain any provision restricting an accused’s right to travel abroad unlike other special laws such as the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 or Ordinance IX of 1984.

Shedding light on her case, she implored that as per the report submitted by the prosecution at that time in the instant case, a suspicious transaction report (STR) was forwarded to the Chairman NAB on January 12, 2018, following which an inquiry was initiated against her on November 14, 2018.

Consequently, the petitioner was arrested in the aforementioned inquiry on August 8, 2019, and remained on physical remand with the investigation agency for 48 days. Then the petitioner was granted a post-arrest bail on October 31, 2019. She contended that since the inquiry started against her, no reference has been filed before any court by the prosecution against her.

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