ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court office on Thursday refused to entertain an appeal moved on behalf of former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf against his conviction in the high treason case.

An informed source told Dawn that the SC registrar office had returned the appeal on the ground that unless the petitioner surrendered himself, his plea could not be entertained.

Order 23, Rule 8 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980 empowers the apex court not to accept any petition unless the convict surrenders to the authorities.

The counsel for Mr Musharraf is expected to file an appeal soon against the SC registrar’s decision.

In his appeal filed on Thursday, Gen Musharraf had requested the Supreme Court to overturn the special court’s Dec 17, 2019, verdict convicting him in the high treason case. He had argued that the verdict should be set aside since the trial was conducted and completed in sheer violation of the Constitution as well as the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898.

The appeal also sought the right of audience before the Supreme Court in his physical absence as well as the suspension of the judgement in the interest of justice and fair play. In a nutshell, the petition had pleaded that the case of the appellant was that he was being tried for a constitutional crime in an entirely unconstitutional manner.

The petition contended that Mr Musharraf wished to draw the attention that his absence was not deliberate as he had multiple life-threatening ailments which had rendered him incapable of appearing before the Supreme Court. “The appellant did not escape from custody and his is not a case of ‘jail break’,” the petition said, adding that the special court, while fully recognising and acknowledging his ailments in 2013 and 2014, exempted him from personal appearance so much so that all eight prosecution witnesses were examined in his absence.

“On no occasion did the appellant or his legal team delay the matter,” the petition contended, adding that till as long as the appellant was present in the country, his legal team expeditiously followed up the case and examined all prosecution witnesses. But after Mr Musharraf left the country, he or his legal team could not proceed with the case and while abroad, he fell seriously ill and was totally unfit to travel and return to Pakistan and stand trial, the petition argued.

“Thus the observation in the Dec 17 judgement about delay is aimed at shifting the blame from the special court to the legal team only to weakly justify trial in absentia,” it said.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2020