IHC reserves verdict on maintainability of Asad Umar’s plea challenging imposition of Section 144 in capital

Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar speaks to the media during a press conference after stepping down from his ministry, in Islamabad on April 18, 2019. - Pakistan's finance minister Asad Umar has stepped down, he announced on April 18, with no replacement yet named as Islamabad seeks a crucial bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP)

Islamabad, OCT 10: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) reserved on Monday its verdict on the maintainability of PTI leader Asad Umar’s plea challenging the imposition of Section 144 in the capital and contending that the move should be declared “ultra vires to the express provisions of the Constitution”.

Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code restricts the assembly of gatherings exceeding four persons. According to a September 25 report, police and administration officers confirmed that section 144 remained imposed in the capital.

Umar’s plea challenging the authorities’ move comes amid anticipation of PTI chief Imran Khan giving a call for a protest march towards that federal capital in a quest for what the party describes as “Haqiqi Azadi” (true freedom) and the government planning measures to tackle the march.

IHC Chief Justice (CJ) Athar Minallah took up the plea today, asking how the imposition of Section 144 affected Umar.

“Did anyone stop the petition, Asad Umar, from seeking permission for a peaceful protest?” he asked.

Umar’s counsel, Babar Awan, told the court Umar was a PTI leader and that his party had been engaged in political activities.

During the hearing, the IHC noted that in the “dharna case” the Supreme Court had ruled that permission had to be sought for a peaceful protest.

He further stated, “There is this party’s (PTI) government in two provinces. Has Section 144 never been imposed there?” He added, “During the PTI’s tenure, was Section 144 never imposed in Islamabad?”

Justice Minallah said the executive had to maintain peace and deal with the matters of law and order, in which the court would never interfere.

The IHC CJ reserved the judgement on the maintainability of Umar’s plea.

The plea

In his plea, Umar contended that Section 144 was a “reflection of colonial legacy” and should be declared ultra vires to the Constitution and fundamental rights guaranteed under it.

He further prayed that the issuance of notifications “under garb of provisions of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, imposing continuous restrictions of more than two months be declared void, Ab-anition, illegal, unlawful against the express provisions of Article 4, 8, 10-A, 15, 16 and 17 of the Constitution”.