SC orders Musharraf to appear before special court in treason case on May 2 or lose right of defence

Updated April 01, 2019

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Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Monday said that if former president Pervez Musharraf did not appear before the court despite giving commitments to do so, something should be done. — AFP/File
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Monday said that if former president Pervez Musharraf did not appear before the court despite giving commitments to do so, something should be done. — AFP/File

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered former president Pervez Musharraf to appear before a special court — that is hearing a treason case against him — on May 2, otherwise he would lose the right of defence in the case.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa was hearing a petition filed by a lawyer, Taufeeq Asif, who pointed out that the proceedings of the treason case — being heard by a special court since 2014 — had come to a halt as former president Musharraf had not returned to the country since 2016.

In the previous hearing of the petition, the top court had said that it would intervene if the special court, in its next hearing, failed to make a decision on how to record the former president's statement.

The apex court today said that if Musharraf does not appear before the special court on May 2, he would lose his right to record a statement under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedures (CrPC). Additionally, the apex court noted that if Musharraf appeared in the court on May 2, all the facilities would remain available to him.

The court further said that if Musharraf does not appear before the special court on May 2, the court should give its decision based off of the prosecution's arguments.

A March 28 order of the special court, calling Musharraf to court on May 2, was also presented in the top court today.

The special court had ordered Musharraf to appear before it on May 2. At that hearing, defence lawyer Salman Safdar had said that the former president wished to appear in court on May 13. Upon hearing this, the three-member bench headed by Justice Tahira Safdar had directed Musharraf to appear in court before Ramazan.

Justice Khosa today said that if a suspect is absent on purpose, any action that follows will not be looked at in the category of an absence. "A fugitive has no rights," the top judge remarked.

A special court had indicted Musharraf for high treason in March 2014. Musharraf left for Dubai in 2016 to "seek medical treatment" and hasn't returned since. Last month, he was admitted to a hospital in Dubai after suffering a reaction from a rare disease for which he is already under treatment.

Before a break in the hearing of the petition today, Justice Khosa remarked that if the former president did not appear before the court despite giving commitments to do so, something should be done.

Chief Justice Khosa asked whether the former president had given assurances that he would appear in court. "Despite the assurances, if Musharraf doesn't come back, what would happen then?" the top judge asked his counsel, adding that something should be done if he did not return.

Musharraf's lawyer Safdar, avoided giving a personal guarantee and said that the former president himself wanted to come back and record a statement. He added that May 13 had been given as the date of Musharraf's return from abroad.

Justice Khosa said that a trial becomes unconstitutional in the absence of a suspect but if a suspect doesn't appear on purpose, he can not be allowed to take advantage of the situation. "High treason is not an average crime," Justice Khosa reminded the defence counsel.

The prosecutor told the court that the case was not taking place in the absence of the former president, adding that Musharraf was present in the court when he had been indicted.

The prosecutor said that after Musharraf was summoned, the former president had given assurances of appearing before the court.