LHC full bench to hear Maryam's passport plea

A Lahore High Court (LHC) full bench comprising three judges was formed on Monday to hear PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s petition, seeking the return of her passport.

The fresh bench will be headed by Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti and includes Justices Ali Baqar Najafi and Tariq Saleem Sheikh. The bench would take up the case on September 14 (Wednesday).

It is pertinent to note that the PML-N leader’s efforts to get back her passport have seen a protracted legal battle as all benches that were assigned the petition till date had to be dissolved after a number of judges recused themselves from the case owing to various reasons.

Now a fresh full bench will take up the case three days after a two-member bench sent the petition to the chief justice as one of its members recused himself from the matter.

The petition had landed on a bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Muhammad Anwarul Haq Pannun. Subsequently, the bench referred the petition to the chief justice with a request to place it before any other appropriate bench for the hearing.

Earlier this year, three judges had refused to hear Maryam's petition seeking her passport to travel to Saudi Arabia and perform Umrah

The bench, headed by Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi, had observed that the matter should be heard by the relevant bench which had already heard it and granted her post-arrest bail.

Later, another division bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi heard the plea. As the proceedings commenced, Justice Najafi announced that his colleague Justice Farooq Haider was not willing to hear the case owing to reasons best known to the judge.

The case file was then sent to Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti with a request to place this matter before any bench.

Following this, another bench led by Justice Najafi heard the matter, but Justice Asjad Javed Ghural recused himself to hear the case. It was then again sent to the LHC chief justice to be placed before another bench.

Finally, the petition was withdrawn by the petitioner.

The Petition

Last week, the PML-N once again approached the high court for the return of her passport, which she had surrendered before the LHC deputy registrar after she had been granted post-arrest bail in the Chaudhary Sugar Mills Limited (CSML) case nearly four years ago after furnishing of surety bonds in the sum of Rs10 million each from two sureties with the trial court and separately depositing Rs70 million with the deputy registrar.

Through a fresh civil miscellaneous filed with her pending writ petition, Maryam contended that “as per record, the inquiry was initiated on November 14, 2018, but no reference has been filed against the petitioner as of today despite a lapse of about four years."

The PML-N leader maintained that "the retention of the passport for an indefinite period tantamount to be violative of her fundamental rights of treatment in accordance with the law, life, liberty, right of movement and equal protection of the law”.

It added that as per the “settled principles of administration of criminal justice system as also fundamental rights due process and fair trial guaranteed, vide Article 10-A of the constitution, a presumption of innocence is imperative and even under trial [the] accused does not lose fundamental rights of treatment”.

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