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Out of court settlement: Supreme Court rejects drag race compromise

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court on Monday rejected a settlement between heirs of the victims who lost their lives in the Bahria Town car race and chief executive of the housing town.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, directed the two parties to follow the set procedure of ‘compromise deal’. The court found the statement submitted by the lawyer of Ali Riaz faulty as it had declared the main accused and his accomplices innocent.

“We are not a party in the case and we have no objection on compromise, but the legal heirs have no right to declare any one innocent because it was the task of the investigation agencies and the court,” the bench observed.

It added that in this case police, lawyers, lower judiciary, Punjab government’s top lawyer and others were all seemingly trying to rescue the influential people from going to jails.

Punjab’s Advocate General Khwaja Harris said, “We did not find evidence against Ali Riaz that could prove his direct involvement in the case”.

“We will not spare any one even if our judge does the same,” the CJP remarked.

The court advised the lawyers of both the parties not to set a precedent of ‘telling lies before the courts’. The court also reprimanded an additional sessions judge for accepting such vogue statements.
During the course of hearing, Chief Justice Chaudhry said, “We will send an order to the Lahore High Court for judicial inquiry against the district and sessions judge who is not taking decisions on merit.”

He also snubbed Ali Raza’s lawyer, Hamid Khan, a prominent leader of lawyers movement, “do not make a mockery of the Constitution by submitting such faulty statements”. The court directed him to submit a statement afresh. The court observed that compromise in this case would attract the Article 211 of the Constitution that deals with conviction. Then the court will decide how the matter be disposed of, the chief justice said.

Khwaja Haris said that the whereabouts of Sheikh Atif, the main organiser of the event, could not be traced. FIA reports revealed that Atif had flown from Peshawar Airport and landed in Abu Dhabi, he informed the court.

The court also expressed its displeasure over the laid-back attitude by the Punjab government and police for not charging former City Police Officer (CPO) of Rawalpindi Fakhar Wisal Sultan Raja, who gave permission for the race.

“The charge under Article 145 against the former CPO means that you are protecting your ‘petti bhai’ (companion of same profession),” the court said to the investigation officer into the case. The court also directed for appropriate action against the three sponsors of the car race that claimed five lives on December 5 last year.

“Nothing is hidden before the court and no one could mislead us,” remarked Justice Chaudhry.

While addressing the lawyer of the main accused, the chief justice said, “Khan jee, in your justice system jails have always remained the destiny of the poor, while influentials have remained out of the ambit of accountability.
He was of the view that no one could dare to hold Ali Riaz accountable for such an offence, had the SC not intervened.

“You can see how top police officials were worried for Ali Riaz,” the CJP remarked. Former IGP of Islamabad even sought cooperation for him, he said.

The court also observed that the trial court should continue its proceedings without taking any prejudice from the apex court’s hearing. At one point, another lawyer in the case, Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi, told the court that the legal heirs forgave his client in the name of Allah. The jury adjourned the case for three weeks.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2011.

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