ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday rejected former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s review petition seeking permission for foreign travel for his cardiac treatment and to amend the earlier order that ‘barred’ him from moving the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for extension in the bail period.

Mr Sharif was granted bail in the Al-Azizia reference on March 26 for six weeks with the condition that he would not leave Pakistan during this period. The SC in a written order had also directed the ex-premier to surrender before the jail authorities instead of applying for extension in the bail, which is ending on May 7.

On Friday when the review petition came up for hearing before a three-member SC bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, counsel for the ex-PM Khawaja Haris Ahmed pointed out that the apex court while granting him bail had directed him to approach the IHC for extension in bail but the direction was not included in the written order that was released later.

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who was member of the SC bench, remarked that the court had not issued such ‘direction’ as these were the ‘observations’. He added that the bench while rising said: “We will pass an appropriate order.”

Former PM’s bail term ends on May 7

Mr Haris, however, argued that this was not an observation but an order as the bench had risen for 30 minutes after arguments and reassembled to announce it.

The chief justice explained to him that it was the prerogative of the bench to modify the order at the time of dictation.

Mr Haris then cited some legal precedents of 2006 according to which after pronouncement of a verbal order in the open court, any change in the written order could be made only after hearing the parties concerned.

The bench, which also comprised Justice Yahya Afridi besides the CJP and Justice Shah, however, was not convinced by his contentions.

Justice Khosa said the change in the written order was made in order to provide the convict an opportunity to choose the legal course of action on its own.

The bench then deliberated upon another aspect of the review petition that included some fresh reports of Mr Sharif’s health.

The review petition filed by the ex-premier stated: “Given the complicated and life-threatening nature of ischemic heart disease, carotid artery disease, lymphadenopathy and renal artery stenosis, from which the petitioner [Nawaz Sharif] is admittedly suffering….. it is in the interest of justice that condition imposed for the petitioner’s release on bail merits review.”

It contended that the only feasible option available to him was to be treated by the same set of medical practitioners who had been treating him earlier in the United Kingdom.

Justice Khosa reminded the counsel that the bench suspended the sentence and granted bail to the ex-PM because 31 doctors of five consecutive medical boards constituted to ascertain the health of the ex-premier “strongly recommended” immediate angiography of the former PM.

The chief justice observed that the angiography procedure did not require more than half an hour to complete. He said the ex-premier wasted weeks in medical tests only.

Dispelling the impression, Mr Haris argued that the health condition of his client had deteriorated manifold over the past few weeks.

He said the special medical board constituted by the Sharif Medical City comprising senior doctors of the Sharif Hospital, Doctors’ Hospital and Sheikh Zayed Hospital recommended his cardiac treatment from abroad.

Mr Haris told the court that three foreign doctors had also been consulted and they suggested his treatment in some other country as local hospitals lacked the required medical facilities.

While presenting a medical report issued on April 23, the counsel said it showed that the ex-premier had developed more complications than what he had when he had been released on bail.

Justice Khosa remarked, “It means that our bail granting order was not good for his health.”

The chief justice noted that the ex-premier’s bail order was given undue hype though the courts suspended sentence of convicted prisoners as a matter of routine every other day. “Even the death sentences had been suspended by the courts,” he explained.

Justice Khosa said if the convict was allowed to travel beyond the court jurisdiction it would set a precedent.

The bench reminded the counsel that the review petition scope was limited, as he was supposed to explain any legal lacuna in the earlier judgement and no additional information or latest medical report could be produced to seek additional relief from the court.

The apex court asked the counsel for Nawaz Sharif to avail appropriate legal remedy at appropriate forum and dismissed the review petition.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2019