LHC irked by police officers in Imran Riaz case, suspends SHO

LAHORE, May 15: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer BhattiS suspended SHO Sialkot Cantt on Monday after he failed to satisfy the court over the grounds for the arrest of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan in court.

Subsequently, the CJ adjourned the proceedings until 1 pm with a clear intimation to DPO Sialkot of serious consequences as well.

Seeking original records pertaining to the journalist’s arrest, the court has also summoned deputy commissioner Sialkot.

The single bench was hearing a plea seeking directions to the concerned quarters to produce Imran Riaz Khan alleging he was being held under “illegal detention” by the police.

Khan is one of two journalists, staunch and vocal supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and his policies, who were arrested by the police on last week.

The government had swung into action and started a crackdown against PTI supporters after the arrest of former premier Imran Khan from the premises of the Islamabad High Court on May 9.

Khan was reportedly arrested at Sialkot Airport for allegedly inciting violence during clashes between security forces and PTI supporters, while anchor and television host Aftab Iqbal was detained from his Lahore farmhouse the same day.

Notably, during earlier proceedings, CJ Bhatti had directed the IG Prisons to produce the CCTV footage of Imran Riaz Khan’s arrival and release from jail by May 15. Furthermore, the CJ ordered the DPO to present the original record of the Roznamcha (police daily diary).

During proceedings, neither the SHO nor DPO could establish the reasons following which anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan was arrested.

As the original Roznamcha was produced before the court, a visibly frustrated CJ Bhatti censured SHO Sialkot Cantt for his unsatisfactory responses.

“You failed to mention where you received the detention orders, nor did you mention your departure or arrival at the police station and you could not even say who specifically had ordered you to take the anchorperson into custody,” the judge remarked.

“Did you have the detention order when you left the police station to make the arrest?” CJ Bhatti inquired.

Upon this, the officer revealed that he had, in fact, received the detention orders after the anchorperson had been arrested. The SHO also confirmed to the court that Khan had been picked up by the police from the airport.

Dismayed by the response, CJ Bhatti observed that “this means you left the police station to arrest Imran Riaz Khan without a detention order in hand”.

“The Roznamcha is where you register your every single move,” the judge said, “but not a single person at the police station was bothered to make the entries”.

The judge went on to raise questions concerning the details of the detention order. However, the SHO did not offer any more answers and opted to remain silent.

“I am giving you a show cause notice and you will have seven days to submit a written response. In the meantime, you will remain suspended from your duties,” CJ Bhatti said.

The judge then moved on to question the DPO and probed about the details of the detention order as he noted that in the previous hearing, he had committed before the court that he had passed the orders to SHO to make the arrest.

“I had just received the information,” the officer responded.

“Yes, I am aware that you received the information but the court wishes to know who the informer was and why these details were left out of the Roznamcha,” the judge said.

“There is a procedure that was followed,” the DPO said, “when police officials receive a call from the informer they reach the venue and make arrests. Then FIRs are registered and then the arrest is mentioned [on record]”.

“But in this case, the SHO left the police station to make the arrest without making any mention of it in the Roznamcha,” the judge remarked.

Irked by the account offered by the officers, CJ Bhatti said that “if you all will run things as per your own wishes then close the books of the Constitution and do as you please”.

Later, on the direction of the LHC judge, the video of the anchorperson’s arrival at the jail upon his arrest was also played in the courtroom.

Subsequently, proceedings were adjourned until 1 pm.

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