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January 20, 2020

Special Court judgment: Obligatory for Pervez Musharraf to turn himself in to file appeal

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January 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pervez Musharraf has to surrender himself to authorities as per the judegment of the special court, which imposed death penalty on him, to file appeal against it in the Supreme Court. Legal experts say when a court writes in its verdict that a convict has to turn himself in, he can’t submit the appeal without doing so.

“The Supreme Court registrar’s determination, while returning Musharraf’s appeal, is correct because special tribunal wrote in its ruling that the convict has to surrender first,” former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA)Kamran Murtaza explained to The News, when contacted.

He said that if a court doesn’t note in its judgement that the convicted person has to surrender, the accused can file the appeal without submitting himself. Normally, the courts in criminal cases, Kamran Murtaza said, allow the convicts to file appeals even after the lapse of the limitation period as such a matter is “between the court and the convict.” He said that deposed Nawaz Sharif had been permitted by the Supreme Court to submit his appeal after nine years.

The lawyer said that the courts in civil cases are very rigid to observe the limitation time because such litigation usually involves rights of citizens. Prominent lawyer Barrister Omar Sajjad concurred to this view and said normally courts require the convicts to surrender themselves for filing appeals.

There is one instance, he said, when a political leader was sentenced in absentia, he was allowed to appeal against the judgement in his absence.

Omar Sajjad said that in Nawaz Sharif’s case, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had, while entertaining his appeal, inquired whether he had turned himself in after his conviction by an accountability court of Islamabad. He said it had accepted the plea for hearing only after getting the confirmation that the former premier has surrendered and is in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi.

In its judgement, the special court directed the law enforcement agencies to strive their level best to apprehend the fugitive/convict [Musharraf] and to ensure that the punishment is inflicted as per law.

“We are of the considered view that the accused, in his high treason case, has been afforded more than his due share of fair trial. The protracted trial of a constitutional and not an ordinary offence that began six years ago in 2013 has yet to see its end in 2019. The accused, who has been given every opportunity to defend himself, has by his conduct in the proceedings only evinced his utter contempt for the law and legal institutions of this country. The facts of this case are well documented. The documents clearly demonstrate the guilt on the part of the accused. It proves beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt, all the charges of high treason leveled against the accused by the State,” the judgement said.

On Friday, the apex court registrar refused to entertain Musharraf’s appeal and returned it after raising an objection under Supreme Court Rules that say a convict has to surrender to the authorities before filing an appeal.

The former dictator’s lawyer has 30 days to appeal against the registrar’s decision. If and when the apex court accepts the appeal for hearing, the fate of a judgement of the Lahore High Court (LHC), which quashed the verdict of the special court and declared its very constitution illegal, will be also decided.

Constitutional experts are of the view that the LHC had no jurisdiction to hear the plea as the appeal against the special tribunal’s decision lies only in the Supreme Court under the high treason act.

In his appeal, Musharraf alleged that the treason trial “suffered from interference and external pressures”. He claimed that he had been denied his constitutional right to fair trial, and that Islamabad High Court’s guidelines to ensure a fair trial were disregarded.

It stated that it was shocking and unfortunate that the special court abruptly wrapped up the trial that was far from its conclusion. The recently appointed prosecution team had filed an application for amended charge to include aiders and abettors in the high treason case. The defence team, comprising the state appointed counsel and privately engaged counsel of appellant had filed two applications without entertaining these very crucial applications and completely ignoring a provision, the special court pronounced the decision of guilty and awarded capital punishment.