LAHORE - This week the Lahore High Court rejected the appeal of a man who killed his whole family in Gujranwala district.

A division bench comprising Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Justice Aalia Neelum held: “In our view, if for such heinous crimes the most deterrent punishment is not given, the case of deterrent punishment will lose its relevance.”

Muhammad Afzal, 22, a resident of Gujranawala district, had killed his father Muhammad Asghar, mother Sajida Bibi, two sisters Anam and Sanam and four brothers Muhammad Iqbal, Sajid, Abid and Muzammal when they were sleeping at home.

On Jan 12, 2012, a trail court in Gujranwala awarded death sentence to Afzal on eight counts with fine of Rs1.6 million and 10 years rigorous imprisonment after the prosecution established him guilty of the heinous crime.

Police established the family altercation as motive for the gruesome murders. The killer told the investigators that his mother used to blame her husband of gambling whereas his father accused her of having bad character. Fed up of the family fights, Afzal told the court, he killed all of his family members in their sleep.

Dismissing his plea challenging the trail court verdict, the division bench further held that the crime had been committed with utmost cruelty and brutality in a pre-planned manner. “It is the nature and gravity of the crime but not the criminal, which are germane for consideration of appropriate punishment in a criminal trial,” the bench maintained.

Another matter taken up by the LHC last week was about the Royal Palm Gold & Country Club.

The court allowed the Club’s management to keep providing its services without disturbing the possession of Pakistan Railways.

In a four-page verdict, the judge directed Pakistan Railways to immediately allow Mainland Husnain Pakistan Limited, a private company running the club for last 15 years, to restore sporting facilities and other services at the club.

On June 24th, at around 4:45 am, some 400 uniformed personnel of Railway Police stormed the gates of Royal Palm, to assume its possession and control.

According to Railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique, the club was constructed on the Railways land under the 15-year-old agreement between the club’s previous management and the then Railways authorities, which had been terminated due to default of over two years payments.

However, while hearing the club’s petition against the PR takeover, the LHC granted interim permission to the Club’s management to manage its affairs, and also constituted a committee to look into the financial matters of the club’s day to day affairs.

During the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel contended that the Railways occupied the club illegally. The counsel, Barrister Zafar said that the takeover was unlawful as no due process or any permission from the court was taken to evict the petitioner from the club. He held the officials of railways looted, plundered and destroyed the valuables and equipment as there was no one who could stop them.

Zafar told the court that railways minister supervised the operation due to which the local police were also unable to help.

He added that the club was being run since 2001 under a valid lease and operation agreement between Royal Palm and Pakistan Railways which was known as “Implementation Agreement July 26, 2001”.

“The petitioner cannot be forced to leave the club without following a proper and due process in and by a court of law,” he held and said the PR committed violation of Article 4 and 10 A of the Constitution.

He also quoted before the court a stay order of a civil court regarding the possession of the club which was flouted by the railways authorities.

On the other hand, the PR counsel told the judge that they did not violate any law to take back the possession of the club.

He relied on Section 5 of the Central government lands and Buildings (Recovery of Possession) Ordinance, 1965 to contend that the said provision empowered Pakistan Railways to posses the club.

After hearing the arguments, Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza heard the case and issued notices to Railways Minister, Secretary and IGP Railways to explain their position on the next hearing.

The court will resume hearing on September 1, 2016.

Beside these cases, the LHC stayed demotion of 29 more police officials with directions to police department to decide the matter of aggrieved officers by giving them ample opportunity of hearing.

Five police officials including SP Rana Masroor and Muhammad Mumtaz, DSP Muhammad Iqbal, Mazhar Fareed, Shahzadi Gulfam and others had filed the petitions. Previously, the judge stayed demotion of 12 police officials.

A total of 42 officials, who were affected by the order, contended that they did not fall in the category of out-of-turn promotions. According to the petitioners, Punjab IGP Mushtaq Sukhera misinterpreted the decision of Supreme Court and issued a notification on June 23, 2016 demoting the policemen.

The LHC suspended the notifications and directed additional IGP to decide cases of the petitioners after hearing each of them.

In another case, the LHC issued notice to federal government and ministry of petroleum and natural resources in a petition challenging over 17 percent tax on petroleum products.

Azhar Siddique filed the petition and submitted that 17 per cent tax was being charged on POL products. He maintained that the citizens were already worried due to inflation and high rates of even essential items. He requested the court to set aside 17 per cent increase in tax on POL prices.