SC set to hear Musharraf's arguments on why he should be allowed to appeal verdict in treason case

February 22, 2020

Email

A special court in Islamabad had convicted former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf of high treason in December. — APML/File
A special court in Islamabad had convicted former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf of high treason in December. — APML/File

The Supreme Court will take up on Monday an application filed by former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf against the decision of the apex court's registrar to return his appeal challenging his conviction in the high treason case.

In December last year, a special court in Islamabad had found Musharraf guilty of high treason and handed him death sentence under Article 6 of the Constitution.

The former president in January filed an appeal in the SC seeking to overturn the special court’s verdict, but the SC registrar office returned the plea on the grounds that unless the petitioner surrendered himself, his appeal 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 Musharraf then proceeded to file an appeal against the SC registrar’s decision.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed will hear arguments on this appeal filed by the former president in his chamber on Monday (Feb 24).

The SC registrar office has issued a notice to Musharraf's counsel in this regard.

Musharraf's appeal

In his appeal filed in January, 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 SC 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 Musharraf wished to draw attention to the fact that his absence was not deliberate as he had multiple life-threatening ailments which had rendered him incapable of appearing before the SC. “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 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 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.