Cipher case judge may be repatriated over ‘misconduct’

The adm­­­i­nistration of Islam­abad High Court (IHC) has initiated the process to send back District and Sessions Jud­ge Abul Hasnat Moha­mmad Zulqa­rnain to his parent department, the Lahore High Court (LHC), over alleged misconduct.

Judge Zulqarnain convicted former prime minister Imran Khan and PTI leader Shah Mahm­ood Qureshi in the cipher case and sentenced them to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment each, in a hurriedly concluded trial.

Sources in the IHC told Dawn on Tuesday that the senior puisne judge, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, who is also the inspection judge of the capital’s Special Courts, has recommended the repatriation of Judge Zulqarnain since a division bench of the high court passed certain observations regarding the conduct of the judge in a bail order on the plea of PTI leader Aamir Masood Mughal.

Mr Mughal, who was booked in March last year for allegedly leading a group of rioters that set a pol­ice van on fire, applied for pre-arr­est bail at the Anti-Terrorism Court.

During a hearing on Feb 6, Mr Mughal appeared in the court of ATC judge Zulqarnain and requested the court to adjourn the hearing on the petition until after the Feb 8 general elections, in which the accused participated as an independent candidate, backed by the PTI.

The judge accepted the request and adjourned the matter until Feb 13.

The IHC bench, however, noted that “the presiding officer [Judge Zulqarnain] dictated and announced such an order in the open court. However, later they were informed that the said petition [for pre-arrest bail] has been dismissed for non-prosecution”.

According to the order, the IHC asked the petitioner and his lawyers to submit separate affidavits before the court, and they later submitted affidavits affirming the facts.

The court further noted that the investigation officer in the case also confirmed the statements of the petitioner and his counsel that the ATC-I on Feb 6 had adjourned the hearing until Feb 13.

“At this juncture, we will exercise restraint to record observations regarding the conduct of the presiding officer [ATC-I judge] in the light of the principle and law laid down by the Supreme Court. However, a separate note is being submitted on the administrative side,” the order said.

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