CJP asked to fix jail petitions before three-judge bench

Updated 25 Aug 2020

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Justice Isa observed that the proposal would substantially reduce the number of such pending petitions before the apex court. — Photo courtesy SC website/File
Justice Isa observed that the proposal would substantially reduce the number of such pending petitions before the apex court. — Photo courtesy SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: Justice Qazi Faez Isa has suggested to Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed to always consider fixing jail petitions before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court for expeditious disposal of the cases if the sentence is awarded by a division bench of the lower court.

The proposal has been put forward by Justice Isa of the Supreme Court in view of the fact that usually when a final decision on such jail petitions or criminal cases was taken by the top judiciary, the petitioner had by the time already served out the life sentence awarded by the trial court and confirmed by a high court.

“Therefore, if the appeal is allowed, such relief would be illusory because by then the petitioner would have almost served out a life imprisonment sentence,” Justice Isa observed.

The suggestion came during the hearing of an appeal against the Lahore High Court’s Jan 31, 2017 judgement in a case relating to a murder that took place in 2010 and an FIR was registered at the Brana police station in Chiniot district.

Suggestion made by Justice Isa during hearing of appeal against LHC judgement in a murder case

The appeal, moved by one Sarfraz, was taken up on Aug 20 this year by a Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood.

Justice Isa stated in his order that when a two-judge SC bench took up such appeals or jail petitions, it could not decide either to reject or alter the earlier sentence awarded by lower courts. Consequently, such cases were fixed before a three-judge bench for a final decision but by that time the petitioners have usually served out their sentence.

Justice Isa observed that the proposal would substantially reduce the number of such pending petitions before the apex court.

Approximately 2,500 jail petitions are currently pending before the Supreme Court.

The order stated that in criminal petitions for leave to appeal or jail petitions being listed for hearing invariably, the petitioner has, excluding the earned remissions, already served out about 10 years of the sentence.

“If leave is granted by the time the appeal comes up for hearing, a few more years will have elapsed. Therefore, if the appeal is allowed, such relief would be illusory because by then the petitioner would have almost served out a life imprisonment sentence,” the order regretted.

Justice Isa directed the court office to put up a note for the kind consideration of the chief justice proposing the constitution of three-member benches to hear criminal/jail petitions in which the impugned judgement is by a two-member bench of the high court, as only a three-member bench of the Supreme Court can alter or set aside such a judgement.

To ensure that an opportunity of hearing is granted to all concerned, the proposal went on to say, a prior notice be issued to the complainant and in case there are any injured, to such injured, and to the petitioner, in case he is unrepresented, to enable him to engage a lawyer if he wants to engage one.

“And if he does not engage a counsel by a notified date then to automatically before fixing the petition for hearing in court, appoint a counsel at state expense to represent him and such counsel to be provided with a copy of the petition,” the order said.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2020