ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a plea filed by Hanif Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) requesting the court to overturn the directives for a trial court to conclude the ephedrine quota case against him by July 21.

Mr Abbasi is contesting the election against Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid from NA-60, Rawalpindi.

On June 11, Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi of the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench had ordered the judge of a special court that was hearing the ephedrine case to announce its verdict by July 21 — four days before the July 25 general elections. The trial court was also directed to hear the matter from July 16 onwards, on a daily basis.

Mr Abbasi filed the appeal against these directives before a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.

When the court took up the case on Friday, senior counsel Ghulam Mustafa Kandwal, representing Mr Abbasi, argued that daily hearing of the case could impact the transparency of the trial.

SC judge observes even murder trials are held on a daily basis

He asked for an extension of at least 10 days for the trial court to pass its verdict in the case involving misuse of controlled chemicals.

However, the apex court dismissed this excuse, observing that even murder trials were held on a daily basis.

The high court had issued the order on a petition filed by Shahid Orakzai — a self-styled public interest litigator — who had challenged the adjournment of the trial in the ephedrine case till August 20, after arguing that Mr Abbasi was accused of smuggling narcotics.

Appealing against the LHC’s directives, Mr Abbasi told the Supreme Court that Mr Orakzai had nothing to do with the case or trial. He argued that Mr Orakzai had approached the LHC with mala fide intention.

He pointed out that the LHC had taken up Mr Orakzai’s plea even though the case wasn’t an urgent one, and fixed the trial before a vacation judge who was instructed to announce the verdict by July 21. Mr Abbasi argued that Mr Orakzai’s petition was not maintainable which was evident from the fact that even the court’s office had raised objections to it. The directives issued by the high court, Mr Abbasi argued, were meant to keep a candidate, contesting the elections, busy in the case rather than concentrating on electioneering.

The high court order, he contended, should be set aside since a single judge of the LHC had exercised the authority he did not have. Moreover, he termed the LHC order an attempt to influence the proceedings before the trial court which, otherwise, was not the theme of the law.

The high court order had exceeded the scope of Article 203 of the Constitution which allowed it to superintendent lower courts, by issuing the directives in excess of its jurisdiction and authority, the petition added.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2018