ISLAMABAD: A convict, who had challenged the vires of the Control of Narcotic Substance Act 1997, has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, which had found her petition not entertainable.

On Aug 27, the Supreme Court office had returned the petition of Khadija Shah — a British citizen of Pakistani origin — in which she had requested the court to suspend her conviction by the trial court in a narcotics case.

At the same time, the appellant through her counsel Barrister Raheel Kamran Sheikh had requested the apex court to declare as void and of no legal effect Section 9(c) of the Control of Narcotic Substance Act, 1997, for being violative of Articles 9, 10A, 14 and 25 of the Constitution.

But the Supreme Court office returned the appeal by raising an objection that the petitioner was invoking an extraordinary jurisdiction of the court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution for the redressal of an individual grievance.

Now the petitioner has challenged the registrar office’s objection with a pleading that it was contrary to the 1996 Supreme Court judgement in the Shahida Zaheer Abbasi case which had observed that there was no hard and fast rule that an individual grievance can never be treated as a matter involving question of public importance.

The judgement also suggested that the true jurisdictional test for the invocation of the apex court’s extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 184(3) should be whether a question of public importance was being agitated or not.

It has been held by the apex court that public importance should be viewed with reference to freedom and liberties guaranteed under the Constitution, their protection and invasion of these rights in a manner which raises a serious question regarding their enforcement irrespective of the fact whether such infraction of right, freedom or liberty is alleged by an individual or a group of individuals, the appeal contended.

Thus, it would be incorrect to interpret that Article 184(3) can only be invoked for individual grievances, especially without reference to the context, facts and circumstances of each case.

Khadija Shah was awarded imprisonment for life and a fine of Rs300,000 and on default of payment of fine, she was to undergo further simple imprisonment for one year and six months. Later, the judgement was upheld by the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench.

An FIR was registered against her at the Anti-Narcotics Force Police Station, Rawalpindi, after which the trial court framed charges.

She was apprehended by ANF personnel from the departure hall of Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad, when she came to board a flight bound for Birmingham (UK). A hefty amount of heroin weighing 63.5 kilograms was allegedly recovered from her luggage.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2019