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Legal options available to IHC as Nawaz unexpected to surrender by given deadline

Tariq Butt

September 6, 2020


ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has different legal options to exercise if deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif doesn’t “surrender” himself before it on September 10, as ordered by it, amid every possibility that he will not return from London by the given deadline because of his incomplete medical treatment.
Legal experts cite various orders that the two-judge IHC bench may pass in case Nawaz Sharif doesn’t appear himself before it. Two appeals filed by the former prime minister against his conviction in two references and one challan submitted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against his acquittal in a case are being simultaneously heard by the IHC.

“As an extreme step, the IHC may even dismiss Nawaz Sharif’s appeals,” prominent legal expert Omar Sajjad explained to The News when contacted. “It may pend his pleas till the time he presents himself before the court.”

The expert said the IHC can declare the ex-premier an absconder. In that eventuality, he said, the surety given for his bail may be confiscated. The auction of his properties may also be ordered, he said.

A principle of the criminal law, Omar Sajjad said, is that the accused has to surrender himself/herself when his/her bail expires because courts feel that the accused persons are avoiding appearance after the end of the facility.

Generally, the expert said, the accused, who are in jail or on bail, are not required to appear before the appellate courts unless they are summoned by them. The trial or appellate courts can also exempt the appearance of the accused.

Another option he said, is the IHC may decide to go ahead with the proceedings on the appeals even in the absence of Nawaz Sharif.

In the last hearing on September 1, the IHC separated the appeals of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President and daughter of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam, and her husband Captain (R) Safdar from his plea and adjourned the hearing till September 23. This means that the IHC has decided to go ahead with proceedings on their appeals.

IHC judges Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani said they were giving Nawaz Sharif a chance "to surrender" and appear before the court at the next hearing on September 10. "We are not taking a final decision as yet."

Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris Ahmed argued that his client could not return to Pakistan due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said that the ex-premier's bail had been approved after his sentence in the Avenfield reference was suspended, adding that the former prime minister had also been granted conditional bail in the Al-Azizia reference. At the same time, he said, Nawaz Sharif was currently not abroad on bail. "His current status is that he is not out on bail; he is seeking medical treatment abroad.”

The judges said that Nawaz Sharif’s appeals can only move forward when he appears before the IHC. “How can the appeal be heard in his absence? Can Nawaz Sharif pursue the appeal through a representative?"

Answering this question, the NAB prosecutor said the IHC can appoint a representative if the accused absconds. He said the former premier was a fugitive for not appearing for court proceedings on purpose.

At no point after the IHC set the deadline of Nawaz Sharif’s appearance before it, has any PML-N even slightly hinted that the ex-premier has any plan to come back to Pakistan by that time. Everyone’s common refrain is that he is unwell and under treatment and will fly back by the next available flight after he will recover. Critical surgeries, which were continuously postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are planned in the next few weeks. Nawaz Sharif’s latest medical reports may be submitted to the IHC.


 

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