Supreme Court Grants Bail To Five Alleged May 9 Perpetrators

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail asks whether holding a rally or being a political party worker is a crime. Judges poke holes in the prosecution's arguments

Supreme Court Grants Bail To Five Alleged May 9 Perpetrators

The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to five individuals who were accused of being involved in the May 9 riots, during which enraged mobs attacked several state installations.

The bail was granted by a three-judge bench, led by Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and comprising Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Musarrat Hilali, that took up the bail petition of suspects involved in May 9 incidents. 

The New Town police had booked the five suspects for allegedly attacking the Hamza Camp in Rawalpindi.

While granting bail to the five individuals, Justice Mandokhail asked whether it was a crime to carry out a rally or be a political party worker. He heavily criticised the police and the prosecution for their poor investigations in the case.

Commenting on the current state of affairs, Justice Mandokhail observed that a ban on student unions is one reason we are where we are today. 

He further asked whether a former prime minister could be declared a traitor merely on the statement of a head constable.

"For God's sake. Where are we heading," Justice Mandokhail proclaimed.

Justice Rizvi quizzed the prosecution about the evidence linking the accused with their alleged crimes. He asked how the accused were identified and whether there was any footage captured by the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed around the military facility that had helped record their actions and aided identification.

The Investigating Officer (IO) informed the bench that the protesters had smashed the cameras installed around Hamza camp and other places, making them all but useless.

At this, Justice Mandokhail remarked that there appears to be no evidence against the accused save the statements from the police. 

Justice Mandokhail further inquired why sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act were included in the case. 

Punjab's law officer explained to the bench that the accused had attacked a camp operated by the country's premier spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

"You do not even know what terrorism is," Justice Mandokhail stated. He pointed out what had happened at the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, and the Quetta kucheri was terrorism, not holding public rallies.

During the hearing, the Punjab law officer told the court that a head constable of the Lahore Special Branch was listed as a witness in the case. Justice Mandokhail remarked that the incident took place in Rawalpindi, but the witness is from Lahore.

He also wondered whether burning a tyre during a protest against the government. is a crime He further observed that detaining everyone who is a suspect is not a solution to the problem.

Justice Rizvi noted that the prosecution had presented no other evidence of its allegations besides the police testimony. 

The investigation officer informed the court that the case had been registered first, and then the suspects were apprehended. Justice Mandokhail inquired how the police knew the suspects' names prior to their arrest, adding that the police had themselves damaged the entire case. 

Justice Hilali noted that the FIR did not mention any specific attack that had been carried out on the ISI office, adding that "sensitive installations are many".

Justice Rizvi then said, "CCTV recordings are safe. People also make videos from their mobile phones." The Punjab law counsel then pointed to the other charges levelled against the suspects, "Petrol bombs have been recovered from the suspects. There is also the allegation of firing."

Justice Rizvi asked, "Who brought the petrol bombs and from where? One cannot bring them from their homes. What does the investigation say?" 

The lawyer responded that their investigation "did not reveal this aspect".

Justice Rizvi then noted, "The suspects are also accused of firing [but] neither were any arms recovered nor were the police injured."

Justice Mandokhail then remarked, "The investigation officer is concocting stories on his own."

Razzaq, a lawyer for one of the petitioners, said that his clients were simply returning to their homes after closing down their shops given the deteriorating situation and got stuck on their way.

Subsequently, the SC approved the petitioners' bail pleas against surety bonds worth Rs50,000.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain