SC hearings sought for two mentally ill prisoners

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ISLAMABAD: A petitioner has approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) for its decisions on two mentally ill death row prisoners.

Last time, a five-judge larger bench led by Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik had taken up the matter on October 23, 2018, and ordered a medical board consisting of civilian and military doctors to conduct a fresh medical examination of schizophrenic death row prisoners Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi and submit a report in two months. The medical board was also asked to inform the court about the history and extent of their mental illness and the prospects of recovery from their ailments.

Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi, mentally ill condemned prisoners, are confined in the Vehari District Jail and the Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH), Lahore respectively. They were later shifted to the Rawalpindi Central Jail for examination by the medical board in compliance with the apex court’s October 23, 2018 order. It is learned that the medical commission submitted its report last year.

The petitioner stated that Kanizan Bibi required urgent medical attention and needed to be shifted to the PIMH, as observed by the Supreme Court in its order dated April 21, 2018, and that Imdad Ali needed to be shifted back to the Vehari District Jail so that he may continue with his treatment.

“The matter is of an urgent nature as both Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi are severely ill and there is an immediate risk of loss of life. It is also pointed out that their cases have not been fixed for a long time. Hence the present application is being filed so that it may be adjudicated upon by this august court without any further delay”, says the application for early hearing of the two cases.

Imdad, from Burewala district of southern Punjab, was awarded the death sentence in 2002 in a murder case. His sentence was upheld by all superior courts, including the Supreme Court. The president had also rejected his mercy petition.

However, when black warrants were issued for his execution on July 26, 2016, his wife, Safia Bano, filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) Multan bench to delay her husband’s hanging until his recovery from mental illness. The high court rejected her plea on August 23, 2016.

She had then approached the Supreme Court, claiming that her husband was insane and asking that the execution of his death sentence be delayed so that he could receive medical treatment which would enable him to write his will.

The SC, however, while rejecting her plea, held that a psychiatric disorder like schizophrenia did not subjugate the death sentence.

“In our opinion, rules relating to mental sickness are not subjugative to delay the execution of a death sentence which has been awarded to a convict”, said the Supreme Court in its 11-page judgment on the famous Imdad Ali case.

In its detailed judgment, the Supreme Court had said: “Schizophrenia is not a permanent mental disorder; rather, it is an imbalance which can increase or decrease depending on the level of stress”.

Later, the Punjab government and his wife challenged the SC’s order by filing review petitions.

Likewise, Kanizan is mute, at times unable to feed or clothe herself, and rarely recognizes or responds to family members. In 2000, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She has languished on death row for 29 years. On October 21, a three-judge bench led by former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar had suspended her death warrant.

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