SHC seeks assistance to determine govt’s liability towards dependents of missing persons

Maqbool AhmedStaff Reporter

28th Aug, 2021. 08:16 pm
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KARACHI. The Sindh High Court (SHC) has asked the Sindh advocate general, deputy attorney general and an amicus curiae to assist it in determining the liability of the state towards the dependents of missing persons when it fails in implementing the Constitutional guarantees to its citizens.

Wife of a missing person, Mushtaq alias Adil, had filed a petition claiming that her husband had been missing for more than five years and she had not any financial resources to bring up their six children.

A division bench, headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar, had called a report about the whereabouts of Adil and a concerned officer told the court in his report that except for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI), all intelligence agencies had denied detaining Adil.

During hearing of the case on Saturday, the bench observed that this was not the only case and hundreds of similar complaints had been filed by the families of missing persons begging for an answer to the question as to where their loved ones were.

The bench observed that Article 9 of the Constitution does not merely protect the right to exist or live but embodies the right to a meaningful life with a minimum standard of living.

When a person goes missing his family has the hope that the person is still alive. However, such disappearance entails consequences that the family would have faced in case of that person’s death. The families of missing persons find no financial resources even for their very survival, the bench noted.

The bench said it felt the need to ponder if the families of missing persons, especially in cases where the head of a family is missing, could be provided subsistence through Zakat or from funds from the social welfare department and Baitul Mal as the state has failed to implement Constitutional guarantees.

Later, the court sought assistance from the Sindh AG and DAG and also appointed senior advocate Habib Ahmed as amicus curiae to help it in finding an answer to this question.

On Friday, the bench noted that tracing the whereabouts of a missing person “even if one has hidden oneself” is the responsibility of the police and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) which should also continually inform the families of such persons about developments in their investigation.

The police should visit such families and keep them informed about the efforts made for recovery of missing persons, the division bench had noted.

The court had observed that a person had been missing for years and nobody knew whether he had hidden himself or was kidnapped by someone or picked up by the LEAs.

A state counsel had informed the court that Adil was wanted in several heinous crimes and it was likely that he had hidden himself to avoid investigation and prosecution. The bench, however, wondered why the law enforces could not trace a person who was facing murder charges.

The court also noted that keeping the families of the missing persons informed about the progress in finding the missing persons is also the duty of police. “Police should visit such families and keep them informed about the efforts they are making for the recovery of such people,” the court observed.

The state counsel said Adil’s was not the solitary case of voluntary disappearance and there were numerous cases where people disappeared voluntarily for fear of investigation and their families filed petitions for their recovery.

The court, however, observed that even in such cases tracing the whereabouts of missing persons is the duty of police and other LEAs. The police and the LEAs could not shirk their legal duty by merely saying that a person had hidden himself to avoid prosecution, it noted

The court later directed the counsel to call a detailed report from the law enforcers about the progress made in tracing the whereabouts of Adil and other missing persons and submit the same before it.

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