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Ombudsperson expresses no trust in SC bench hearing her case

Ombudsperson expresses no trust in SC bench hearing her case

ISLAMABAD: Federal Ombudsperson for Pro­tec­tion against Harassment of Women at Workplace Yas­min Abbasi on Wednesday expressed mistrust of a Supreme Court bench hearing a case against her for issuing arrest warrants against a sitting puisne judge, now chief justice of the Lahore High Court.

Consequently, a two-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali decided to transfer the matter to a different bench to hear it, along with a separate petition moved by Sumera Fazil Khan.

At the last hearing on June 21, the ombudsperson had dubbed the apex court as a place where justice is buried.

Ms Abbasi was summoned by the Supreme Court for issuing the arrest warrants against Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, a day after she tendered an unconditional apology for her ‘contemptuous’ conduct. She had also directed the Punjab police chief to ensure the judge’s appearance before her office on May 13.

But the apex court took the development to be in bad taste and, while taking suo motu notice, suspended the purported arrest warrants and asked the ombudsperson to appear in person and explain the situation.

Along with the case, the Supreme Court had taken up a petition filed by Raja Ibrahim Satti on behalf of Sumera Khan challenging the April 5 high court judgement which had set aside the Jan 4 order of the ombudsperson on a petition moved by the same petitioner.

Sumera Fazil Khan is the same woman who had on Sept 14, 2015, filed a complaint before the ombudsperson against a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, his son and others. The respondents later moved an application before the ombudsperson against the maintainability of the complaint and then challenged the jurisdiction of the ombudsperson in the LHC.

The high court initiated criminal proceedings against the ombudsperson and issued bailable arrest warrants to compel her appearance before it while suspending the decision taken by the ombudsperson on Sumera’s complaint. The LHC disposed of the respondents’ petition on Oct 19, 2015, on the ground that it was not maintainable in the absence of any findings of the ombudsperson.

But on a separate petition, the high court stayed the proceedings before the ombudsperson on Nov 3, 2015, with an observation that the ombudsperson, appointed under the Prot­ection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act (PHWWA) 2010, had wrongly assumed the jurisdiction on the complaint when the matter in hand was purely provincial in nature because the alleged offence had taken at a law firm/workplace in Lahore.

The fresh petition filed by Sumera Fazil Khan in the Supreme Court contended that the high court was only competent to take up a matter if no adequate remedy was provided by the law and that it must have territorial jurisdiction.

It said that the federal ombudsperson was performing her function in Islamabad within the limit of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) which fell under the jurisdiction of the Islamabad High Court, adding that the LHC thus had no territorial jurisdiction in Islamabad and erred in law by assuming the jurisdiction in respect of a person who was performing her duties in Islamabad.

“Since the PHWWA is a special law and required speedy disposal, the high court does not enjoy jurisdiction in such matters,” the petition argued.

Courtesy : Dawn News



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