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June 13, 2019

High treason case: Special Court rejects Musharraf’s plea for adjournment

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June 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Special Court on Wednesday rejected a plea of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf seeking adjournment on medical grounds in the high treason case against him for imposing emergency rule on November 3, 2007.

A three-member bench of the Special Court, headed by Justice Tahira Safdar and comprising Justice Nazar Akhtar and Justice Shahid Karim, resumed hearing on the complaint lodged by former PML-N government seeking initiation of high treason proceedings against the former president.

Musharraf had filed an application with the Special Court seeking adjournment for the reason of serious medical ailments, saying he is unable to appear physically before the court for his examination.

Salman Safdar, counsel for Musharraf, had submitted medical papers and photographs of the accused to support the assertions made in the application. The court rejected the plea of Musharraf and held that such opportunities have already been given to the accused, thus no fresh request for an opportunity to enable the accused to physically appear before it for his examination as required by Section 6 (1) (d) the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act 1976 (Act, 1976) could be entertained.

"Also in view of the order of the Supreme Court passed in civil review petition on April 2019 wherein it had held that once the trial has begun, it shall not be adjourned by reason of absence of any accused person due to illness,” the Special Court noted in its order.

“The Supreme Court in its order had also held that Section 9 mandates that the Special Court shall proceed with the trial after taking necessary steps to appoint an advocate to defend any such accused person,” the order further noted.

The court observed that in the present circumstances of the case, the accused is notmerely absenting himself from attending the Special Court, he has also been declared a proclaimed offender on July 12, 2016.

"Being a fugitive from the law, the accused loses his right to audience and as consequence the accused has lost the right to have an advocate appointed to defend him unless and until the accused surrenders before it,” the special court ruled.

The court ruled for proceeding with the trial on the next date of hearing, adding that in case the accused surrenders and appears before the court, he would be entitled to record his statement under Section 342 CrPC and lead any other defence under the law.

The court further held that as decided by the Supreme Court, the counsel representing the accused neither could represent him nor could defend the accused with the exception the accused appears and surrenders himself before the court. The court directed the Ministry of Law to submit a panel of advocates for the purpose along with the package of fee to be paid to the advocates so appointed to enable it to further proceed with the case, as required and ordered to fix the case for June 27 for further proceedings.

Earlier, during the proceedings, Salman Safdar submitted that his client was "fighting for his life", adding that he was not physically or mentally capable of coming back and appearing before the court. The counsel sought one more chance for his client to ensure his appearance before the court and requested for adjournment as he contended that Musharraf was undergoing heart chemotherapy due to which his health has further deteriorated.

Dr Tariq Hassan from the prosecution side submitted that the court had given the accused the chance to give his statement through video link. He also opposed the request made by Musharraf’s counsel seeking adjournment.

The court had observed that it was the responsibility of the complainant (federal government) to bring back the accused as he had been declared an absconder besides his arrest warrants had already been issued. The court had ordered that the interior ministry should take action for the arrest of the former military ruler through the Interpol.

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