Justice Anwaarul Haq Pannu of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday recused himself from hearing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s plea seeking the return of her passport.
The judge recused himself citing personal reasons.
Justice Ali Baqir Najafi, who was the head of the division bench, sent the petition to the chief justice for the formation of a new bench.
Earlier this week, Maryam approached the LHC 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.
It’s the fourth bench dissolved since April. Formed in April, the first division bench led by Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi recused himself from hearing the PML-N leader’s petition and sent the file to the chief justice.Â Justice Anawaarul Haq Pannu was the other member of the division bench.
The CJ sent the petition to another division bench comprising Justice Ali Baqir Najafi and Justice Farooq Haider. The latter, however, recused himself from hearing the plea citing personal reasons. This led to the dissolution of the bench.
Justice Ali Baqir Najfi and Justice Asjad Javed Ghural were the members of the third division bench formed to hear Maryam’s plea, but this time Justice Ghural recused himself citing personal reasons.
Later, another bench comprising Justice Ali Baqir Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem was formed to hear the petition but Maryam withdrew the plea, pleading that she would make her submission through another petition.
Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem later retired.
Previously, she made a plea that she wanted one-time permission for six weeks to perform Umrah in Saudi Arabia. In her fresh petition filed before the fifth bench, she made a plea for the return of her passport on humanitarian grounds.
According to the latest plea, Maryam stated 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”.
She contended that on August 8, 2019, when she was visiting her father at the Central Jail Lahore, she was arrested in an inquiry initiated by the National Accountability Bureau and was barred from completing her visit.
Following the court’s order, it furthered that she surrendered her passport and deposited the required amount of Rs70 million.
She said in her petition that she was unable to exercise her fundamental rights for the last four years despite the absence of any charge sheet or trial, as she had surrendered her passport in compliance with the court’s order.
“There may not be any apprehension of abscondance or otherwise in view of the track record of the petitioner who notwithstanding a conviction order against her, voluntarily came back to Pakistan to surrender to the process of law while leaving behind her ailing mother on death bed,” the petition added.
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”.