Courts may revisit verdicts if injustice proven, CJP observes in Bhutto case

Published January 9, 2024
A nine-member larger bench of the Supreme Court resumes hearing the presidential reference against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s death sentence on Jan 8. — DawnNewsTV
A nine-member larger bench of the Supreme Court resumes hearing the presidential reference against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s death sentence on Jan 8. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa observed on Monday that by hearing the long-pending presidential reference — seeking to revisit the 1979 controversial death sentence awarded to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) — the Supreme Court is concerned with the repute of the person, posterity, history, and determining whether such an exercise sets a good precedence for future courts.

CJP, heading the nine-judge Supreme Court bench addressing the reference, explained that the court could revisit its earlier judgements if it is established that a great miscarriage of justice occurred due to the departure from Constitution or political elements in the prosecution.

But to do so, it has to establish the requirements of Article 4 of the Constitution, which ensures that the right of individuals should be dealt with in accordance with the law, CJP said.

When Article 4 cannot be suspended even if emergency was proclaimed or the Constitution was abrogated or put in abeyance, why a person should be prevented from approaching the Supreme Court on the grounds that the requirements of Article 4 were ignored.

Bilawal seeks timely decision, sees chance to rectify history

“Why the court should not revisit all the cases where such departures were made,” CJP questioned.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah questioned if the court could revisit the judgement by relying on an interview of former CJP Dr Naseem Hasan Shah by journalist Iftikhar Ahmed, taking it at face value. In the interview, Dr Shah claimed that the conviction against Mr Bhutto was the result of pressure.

Justice Shah further questioned whether the court should not conduct a proper inquiry to conclude that injustice was done, especially when other members of the bench, that handed down the same conviction, have not come forward. He noted that it was only one judge who had given the interview.

Senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, appointed amicus curiae by the court, said the present matter was a unique case in the common law jurisdiction where a judge, who was part of the narrowest majority of the bench, gave an interview much after his retirement.

The court postponed further hearing on the reference after the general elections.

Timely decision in ZAB case sought

In a relevant development, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari expressed his desire for the decision to be announced before the polls.

In a news conference outside the Supreme Court building after the hearing, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said, “We demanded from the incumbent chief justice that the case must be concluded after the elections and not left on the back burner, as happened in the past when former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry started the case and after two or three hearings, he forgot about it.”

The PPP chief stated that the judiciary has an opportunity to rectify history.

“The way this case [ZAB’s case] was decided, a precedent was set, and such injustice was repeated time and again. Today we have a chance to set right the history and close the doors of injustice forever.”

Taking a different stance from his previous speeches, where he aggressively criticised PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, Mr Bhutto-Zardari urged both PML-N and PTI to learn from their past mistakes to brighten the future for coming generations.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari expressed firm confidence that the next general elections would be held on schedule on Feb 8, as assured by CJP Isa.

Later, US Ambassador, Donald Blome, called on Mr Bhutto-Zardari at Zardari House.

Ac­­co­r­ding to the PPP central secretariat, both Mr Bhutto-Zardari and the US ambassador discussed the promotion of bilateral relations. They also exchanged views on ways to increase trade. PPP leader Farhatullah Babar and former Sindh CM Mur­ad Ali Shah were also present during the meeting.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Afghan puzzle
Updated 28 May, 2024

Afghan puzzle

Unless these elements are neutralised, it will not be possible to have the upper hand over terrorist groups.
Attacking minorities
28 May, 2024

Attacking minorities

WHILE Pakistan has watched many perish in the cauldron of sacrilege, the state has done little to turn down the...
Persistent scourge
28 May, 2024

Persistent scourge

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group...
Mercury rising
Updated 27 May, 2024

Mercury rising

Each of the country's leaders is equally responsible for the deep pit Pakistan seems to have fallen into.
Antibiotic overuse
27 May, 2024

Antibiotic overuse

ANTIMICROBIAL resistance is an escalating crisis claiming some 700,000 lives annually in Pakistan. It is the third...
World Cup team
27 May, 2024

World Cup team

PAKISTAN waited until the very end to name their T20 World Cup squad. Even then, there was last-minute drama. Four...