The Islamabad High Court on Monday rejected a petition seeking release of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on bail on medical grounds in the Al-Azizia corruption case.
An IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani announced the short order in the open court, saying the petition for bail on medical grounds lacked merit.
Court reasons for rejecting Sharif's petition
- He sought his release on bail solely on medical grounds
- Sharif's medical reports do not suggest his continued incarceration would be harmful to his life
- He is already receiving "best possible medical treatment available" to any Pakistani
- His condition cannot be regarded as an extraordinary situation or case of extreme hardship
- The petition was without any merit
The 9-page detailed order notes that Sharif sought his release on bail "solely" on medical grounds. It points out that the former premier had previously filed a second petition seeking suspension of his sentence and release on bail on merits of the case, but subsequently withdrew the same.
While observing that the court has the jurisdiction to suspend a sentence or to release a prisoner on bail (whether under trial or convicted) under Article 199 of the Constitution, the order says: "However, such jurisdiction is to be exercised sparingly, in extraordinary circumstances and in cases of extreme hardship."
Talking about whether Sharif's condition could be termed as an "extraordinary situation and one of extreme hardship", the bench referred to a number of cases, including that of PPP leader Sharjeel Memon, whose bail plea on medical grounds was refused.
In ‘The State Vs. Haji Kabeer Khan’ case, the Supreme Court observed that an accused "would not be entitled to the grant of bail, if he is getting proper treatment either in hospital or jail," the order noted.
"None of the reports [about Sharif's condition] suggest that continued incarceration of the petitioner, in any way, would be detrimental to his life," it added.
According to the judgement: "The petitioner [Sharif] has been hospitalised time and again since January, 2019, whenever he made complaints about his indisposition. In fact the reports of board of doctors and various teams constituted, are indicative of the fact that petitioner is receiving best possible medical treatment available to any individual in Pakistan."
"The referred fact cannot be regarded as an ‘extraordinary situation’and/or case of ‘extreme hardship’ [...] being indisposed per se cannot form basis to be released on bail.
"In the instant [Nawaz Sharif's] case, the law was duly followed and the petitioner was taken to the hospital as and when he complained about his health."
The court, concluding its order, said it found the "petition to be without merit" and dismissed the same.
Verdict 'disappointing': PML-N
The senior leadership of the PML-N was present in the court to hear the verdict, while supporters chanted slogans in favour of the party supremo outside. Speaking to the media, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi deemed the verdict "disappointing".
"We have always respected court orders; we respect this one as well. We will take all legal routes that are available [to challenge]," said Abbasi. "The treatment required [for Sharif] cannot be provided in jail; it is important that he is released [from jail]."
Sharif was shifted from Kot Lakhpat Jail — where he is serving his sentence — to Jinnah Hospital 10 days earlier. Following the verdict today, he held a three-hour long meeting with Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz before eventually deciding against receiving any further treatment at Jinnah Hospital. He was thus transferred back to Kot Lakhpat Jail.
Maryam, meanwhile, shared a line on Twitter from a poem by Punjabi/Seraiki poet Shakir Shujabadi: "Dua Shakir tu mangi rakh, dua jaane, Khuda jaane."
Accountability court Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik had on December 24, 2018 convicted Sharif in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills Company (ASCL) and Hill Metal Establishment (HME) reference, and awarded him seven years imprisonment with a fine of Rs1.5 billion and $25 million.
The bench had on Wednesday reserved the decision on the petition seeking the suspension of seven-year sentence awarded to Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference.
'Bail plea on medical grounds'
In his concluding arguments before the IHC bench, lead defence counsel Khawaja Haris had argued that successive medical boards were of the view that Sharif was suffering from multiple diseases, and they recommended his further medical investigation and examination.
Haris said that doctors were not taking any responsibility of Sharif’s treatment and this was the reason that since the middle of January, six different medical boards had been constituted to examine his health condition.
He said that the former premier was suffering from issues related to kidney, hypertension and diabetes, besides having cardiac problems.
Haris told the bench that the report of a medical board had even suggested that Sharif should undergo angiography, adding that in a previous angiography it was found that he was suffering from multiple complications that had led to his surgery.
He requested the court to suspend the sentence of Sharif, enabling him to get timely treatment from the doctor of his choice.
The additional prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Jahanzeb Bharwana, on the other hand, opposed the suspension of the sentence, saying that the medical reports did not raise any apprehension that the life of the PML-N supremo was in danger while being imprisoned.
He argued that the Supreme Court had in various cases — including the NAB’s appeal against the suspension of Sharif’s sentence in the Avenfield properties reference — outlined criteria according to which the high court could not grant bail to any convict under such circumstances.
The former prime minister has challenged his conviction in the IHC, claiming that the accountability court’s verdict in the case is marred with flaws and legal lacunas.
With additional reporting by Adnan Sheikh.