LHC stays imprisonment of Mandi Bahauddin DC, AC

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) Monday stayed a verdict of a consumer court ordering the arrest of Mandi Bahauddin Deputy Commissioner Tariq Basra and Assistant Commissioner Imtiaz Ali on contempt charges.

Last Friday, Mandi Bahauddin District and Sessions Judge Abdul Jabbar, who also heads the district consumer court, had convicted the two civil servants after members of the district administration and the judge engaged in a heated argument over the eviction of the occupant of a government residence, awarding them three-month imprisonment each and issuing orders for sending them to prison.

However, the civil servants purportedly evaded arrest and left for Lahore over the weekend where they filed an appeal challenging the consumer court’s order before the high court.

Meanwhile, Mandi Bahauddin District Police Officer (DPO) Sajid Khokhar, who the court had ordered to send the convicted officers to the prison, went on leave until the filing of the appeal.

Today, LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, who took up the petition, suspended the imprisonment orders. He also served notices on all respondents and sought responses.

The accused had through their counsel maintained the case did not fall under the purview of the consumer court. But Justice Bhatti said the applicants could appeal before the higher forum if a lower court took notice of a matter despite it being outside its jurisdiction.

The counsel for the officials argued that a judge must decide the case as per the law. The judge observed the officials had disobeyed the consumer court by sending a clerk before the judge.

CASE HISTORY

The consumer court judge had convicted the deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner for contempt of court in connection with the hearing of a request by a citizen, Muhammad Asim, who was forcibly evicted from an official residence in Wapda Colony by Rana Mehboob Ali, a litigation clerk in the district administration.

The court issued notices to the officials to appear before the court. However, they sent the litigation clerk who committed grave misconduct and contempt by misbehaving with the judge.

The clerk challenged the authority of the court, as well. At this, the judge convicted him. However, Basra telephoned the judge and misbehaved with him, asking him to set the clerk free whereas Ali also appeared in the court and misbehaved with the judge.

The judge issued notices to both the officials under Section 228 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) to appear and personally answer as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them.

They appeared in the court on Friday but could not satisfy the judge. At this, the judge awarded three-month imprisonment to them and sent them to the Gujrat District Jail.

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