ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court commences on Tuesday (today) the hearing of an appeal by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif seeking immediate bail on medical grounds, the court office has beefed up security measures on the court premises.

Headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, a three-judge Supreme Court bench — also consisting of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi — will take up the appeal of Nawaz Sharif against the Feb 25 Islamabad High Court (IHC) order of turning down his bail plea on medical grounds in the Al-Azizia corruption reference.

Sensing that a large number of PML-N supporters might turn up to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court has taken special security measures that include beefing up the security in the court premises to ensure decorum and smooth functioning of the proceedings.

In view of the limited seating capacity in Court Room No 1, an announcement issued by the Supreme Court office explained that the entry on Tuesday would be regulated through special security passes that would be issued by Superintendent Police (Security) Supreme Court, Islamabad.

Only the petitioners/respondents whose cases are fixed in the court will be allowed to enter in Supreme Court premises on the day. However, advocates and journalists who regularly come for Supreme Court proceedings will be exempted from such passes.

The general public interested in witnessing the proceedings of the case may contact SP (Security) of the Supreme Court building for security passes.

Entry into the court building will be allowed after checking and searching bags/purses and no cell phones would be allowed to be carried inside the courtroom.

On March 11, senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed on behalf of the former premier had moved an application for immediate hearing of the appeal with a request that since the rejection of the earlier application for early hearing, the medical condition of the petitioner (Nawaz Sharif) had worsened, and so the court should order fixing of the case.

The high court in its Feb 25 order had held that none of the medical reports about Mr Sharif’s condition suggested that his continued incarceration in any way would be detrimental to his life, adding that he had been hospitalised time and again since Jan 2019 whenever he had made complaints about his indisposition.

However, the appeal before the Supreme Court on behalf of the former premier had contended that Mr Sharif be released on bail after suspending the execution of Dec 24, 2018 sentence of seven years imprisonment awarded by the accountability court.

The appeal contended that the IHC Feb 25 order was in violation of his fundamental right to life as guaranteed by Article 9 of the Constitution, adding that the Pakistan Prison Rules 1978 were neither relevant to nor were invoked by him for the suspension of his sentence on medical grounds. As such reference to the police rules or their non-applicability to his case is redundant and extraneous to his plea for suspension of sentence.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2019