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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the secretary Ministry of Interior, chief commissioner and Inspector General of Police, Islamabad to ensure that while considering applications received from the political parties, mindful of their constitutional duty to safeguard the fundamental rights of all the citizens.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah made the observation in his written order issued after hearing the petition moved by Asma Malik, a citizen residing in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). The bench disposed of a petition.

Asma invoked the IHC jurisdiction through Malik Muhammad Haseeb and asserted that her security as well as that of other inhabitants of the capital is at grave risk on account of the calls given by the political leaders to hold public meetings at “D Chowk”, Islamabad.

Her counsel argued that various political leaders, including those who belong to the ruling political party have made statements, which are in the nature of inciting violence. She maintained that there is an imminent and serious risk of harm to the citizens and their properties.

The IHC bench noted that Article 9 of the Constitution guarantees that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law. It added, simultaneously, Article 16 provides that every citizen shall have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the interest of public order. Likewise, Article 15 guarantees to every citizen the right to freedom of movement.

No doubt the constitutionally guaranteed right under Article 9 is of paramount importance. It is the duty of the State and its public functionaries to ensure that while regulating the right to assemble, the rights of other citizens would not be interfered with nor disturbed.

“The right guaranteed under Article 16 is not absolute but it has been expressly made subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order,” maintained the IHC chief justice.

Justice Minallah said it is the duty of every citizen, particularly, political leaders and public office holders to obey the law and if it is violated, then to be held accountable. He continued, “It is indeed an extra ordinary situation because the political party in power as well as those in opposition have announced show of their street power.

It is, therefore, an onerous constitutional obligation of the executive authorities to strike a balance between the guaranteed fundamental rights, regardless of whether the applicant is from the ruling political party or represents those who sit on the opposition benches.

The IHC CJ stated that the concern of the petitioner does not appear to be misplaced. The maintenance of public order and imposition of reasonable restriction in the context of regulating exercising the right guaranteed under Article 16 of the Constitution is within the exclusive domain of the executive authorities i.e. the Minister for Interior, secretary, Ministry of Interior, chief commissioner, inspector general of police and deputy commissioner, Islamabad Capital Territory.

The court, therefore, directed them to ensure that while considering applications received from the political parties, they will be mindful of their constitutional duty to safeguard the fundamental rights of all the citizens.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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