IHC can’t ask Centre to initiate high treason case against ex-PM

26 Sep 2018

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Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. — AFP/File
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islam­abad High Court (IHC) dismissed as non-maintainable a petition seeking trial of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on a high treason charge and declared that the high court lacked jurisdiction to direct the federal government to initiate high treason proceedings against any person.

In an order passed on Sept 12 — made available on Tuesday — on the petition seeking initiation of proceedings under Article 6 of the Constitution against the former premier for his interviews related to the trial of suspects in the Mumbai attack case, IHC Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb declared: “The High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973, prescribes a procedure for the initiation of proceedings for high treason. This court [IHC] is bereft of the jurisdiction to direct the federal government to initiate proceedings for high treason.”

Article 6 of the Constitution says: “Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or hold in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance the Constitution by use of force or show force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason. As per clause 2 of the Article 6, “any person aiding or abetting [or collaborating] the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason.” The third clause of Article 6 says, “Parliament shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.”

The High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973 provides procedure for proceeding for high treason. It says, “No court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under this act except upon a complaint in writing made by a person authorised by the federal government in this behalf.” The punishment for high treason is death or lifetime imprisonment, according to the act.

As per the court order sheet, petitioner Bisma Noureen sought the initiation of proceeding under Article 6 against Mr Sharif. The petitioner appeared in person and submitted that Mr Sharif had committed high treason; and that the court ought to direct the federal government to initiate proceedings against him for committing treason. The petitioner based her stand on various news items published in the print and electronic media.

The court while observing lack of jurisdiction in this matter declared that the petition was “dismissed as not maintainable”.

After preliminary hearing of the petition filed on Sept 12, Justice Aurangzeb dismissed it without issuing notice to the respondents — the federal government, foreign minister, interior minister, director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Chief of the Army Staff and ex-PM Sharif.

The petition contended that the interviews of Mr Sharif related to the Mumbai attacks and subsequent trial of Pakistani suspects had brought a bad name to the state. She requested the court to direct the federal government to file a complaint against the ex-premier under Article 6 of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2018