Judge is scheduled to be retired next month
Hearing the case of missing persons at the Supreme Court Lahore registry, a three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Justice Jawad S Khwaja and Justice Amir Hani Muslim yesterday passed the order after the defence authorities failed to produce the "missing persons".
The missing persons are believed to be in the custody of the intelligence agencies. They have been reportedly detained for their alleged connection with terror activities. The court had earlier summoned the defence secretary.
Additional attorney general Tariq Khokhar told the court that the defence secretary had been advised medical rest therefore he could not appear before the court.
He sought more time for the authorities to produce the missing persons. The bench then asked "who is the defence minister"? The law officer replied the prime minister was holding this portfolio.
Chaudhry remarked: "As sufficient evidence is available to establish the custody of the 35 persons with the army, therefore, the army is bound to produce them before the court and no authority is allowed to retain them unlawfully."
He said these persons were no longer "missing persons" as their custody had been identified. When the additional defence secretary sought more time for their production, he said: "We are sitting here, go and bring the persons though in evening."
He further said, "the army is tarnishing its image by not producing the undeclared internees." Justice Khwaja observed that the matter involved implementation of Article 9 of the Constitution and the court was under constitutional obligation to maintained supremacy of the Constitution.
Chaudhry adjourned the hearing till November 28 with a direction to produce the detainees or ask the defence minister to appear before the court to face "serious consequences."
Chaudhry is scheduled to be retired next month. Law experts say Sharif has no other choice but to ensure that the missing persons appear in court.
The court in earlier hearings had made it clear that it was not satisfied with the reply of the defence authorities and they had to ensure production of the detainees.