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August 11, 2018

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Sharifs’ pleas No substantive proceedings in IHC

Sharifs’ pleas No substantive proceedings in IHC

ISLAMABAD: There have been no substantive proceedings in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) over the pleas of Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt (R) Safdar seeking bails and suspension of their conviction since their filing of petitions over three weeks back.

Bench after bench has stood dissolved apparently because of non-availability of one judge or the other due to summer vacation. The prioritisation of the convicts’ three pleas – transfer of the pending two references against the Sharifs (since decided); grant of bails; and suspension of the accountability court judge – for hearing has raised eyebrows.

When a two-judge IHC panel took up the Sharif’s three pleas on July 31, it decided to first adjudicate upon the issue of shifting the references to another accountability court. It accepted the Sharif’s application.

“Normally, the bail matters are heard by courts first because of the accused or convicts being in the jail,” eminent constitutional and legal expert Barrister Wasim Sajjad told The News when contacted. “In the instant case, the convicts voluntarily surrendered themselves to the law in the wake of their sentencing.”

He said that the bail request of an accused who has been imposed just one-year imprisonment is generally immediately accepted as the law requires. In the present case, Capt (R) Safdar was awarded this amount of imprisonment.

In the case of Maryam who was convicted to seven years, Wasim Sajjad said, she can be granted bail for being woman. He added that Nawaz Sharif’s petition to the effect can also be accepted for health reasons particularly the serious heart problem.

The former prime minister had to be shifted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) for two days after the aggravation of his cardiac disease despite his insistence not to be moved out of jail. The senior doctors who treated him wanted to keep him in the hospital for some more days but he declined, and the medical specialists wrote in their medical report that he was being sent back on his persistent desire.

Wasim Sajjad said that the Sharifs’ lawyers should have pressed before the IHC that the bail plea be decided first and the other requests be taken up later. He thought that the judges first took up the request for transfer of the references to the other accountability court perhaps for the reason that the trial in the pending cases doesn’t face delay.

The constitutional expert said that the bails were decided on prima facie facts as the courts don’t usually go into depth of the case at this stage. However, during the elaborate proceedings of the appeal, which is in fact rehearing, the entire record and evidence is looked into comprehensively, he added.

The summer vacation of the judges have been cited as the principal reason for the delay in adjudicating upon the Sharifs’ three pleas. However, Wasim Sajjad said that in the old days the courts used to be completely shut for these holidays as the judges would go for vacationing. Then, a vacation judge would sit to take up only urgent matters like bails.

But now, he said, the trend has changed as the schedule of vacation - starting from the first week of July and the first week of September - is kept flexible with judges going for holidays at different times.

A third division bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb will now hear the Sharifs’ two pleas seeking bails and suspension of the subordinate court verdict.

After the convicts’ lawyer Khawaja Haris filed the appeals in the IHC on July 16 three days after Nawaz Sharif and Maryam returned to Pakistan from London to court arrest, a panel consisting of Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb had held preliminary proceedings on July 17 and passed the order that the petitions will be heard in the third week of the same month. Later, Justice Kayani went on vacation as per the previously chalked out schedule and the bench stood dissolved.

Then, another bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the pleas. On the very first hearing, it announced that it will first take up the transfer of the references to the other accountability court. It continued proceedings for a week and pronounced the verdict.

Now, Justice Aamer Farooq has now proceeded on summer vacation as per the pre-decided schedule. He was scheduled to go on leave last week but delayed it a bit. Resultantly, the bench has dissolved. Now, the third panel will resume the hearing.

The IHC judges include Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq, Justice Kayani and Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb. The most senior IHC judge after Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Kasi is Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who is not being involved in these cases. Similarly, the chief justice, who forms benches, has also not become part of any such panel.

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