SC to define laws on juvenile capital punishment
By Mohammad Kamran
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday observed it would peruse and define laws relating to death sentence to young people as many such cases were pending and minors were languishing in death cells due to legal complications.
A full bench consisting of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Justice Qazi Farooq and Justice Hamid Mirza barred a committee, set up by the Punjab Home Department, from looking into the laws relating to the juvenile and observed that only judiciary could define the laws and a legal review was out of the executive’s jurisdiction.
Justice Chaudhry gave this ruling in a petition wherein the aggrieved had filed a contempt petition against non-implementation of the court order regarding death sentence to a minor, Hafiz Najeebullah.
An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) had sentenced Najeebullah to death for a murder and his family had filed an appeal against the ATC decision in the Lahore High Court (LHC) that dismissed the appeal and upheld the ATC decision. The convict then moved the SC that also dismissed the appeal, and later a review plea was also rejected.
Najeebullah’s family filed a mercy plea to the President of Pakistan but that too was rejected, and consequently black warrants were issued for Najeebullah. While the convict was in a death cell, on October 10, 2001 his family sought a stay against the execution orders on the ground of a ‘compromise’ between the convict and the aggrieved party. Meanwhile, in 2002 the president promulgated an ordinance regarding ban on capital punishment to those under 18.
Najeebullah’s family again filed an appeal in the high court on the basis of the new presidential ordinance. The high court referred the case to the Home Department for adjudication whether the ordinance could be applicable to a convict who was underage at the time of the crime, and he attained the age of 18 later.
In compliance with high court’s order the government of Punjab formed a committee under the home secretary. But the aggrieved party moved the SC by filing a contempt petition on the ground that the court’s order regarding a capital punishment to Najeebullah was not being implemented.
Initiating the proceedings in the contempt petition the court on Wednesday restricted the review committee from looking into the matter and adjourned the proceedings till April 7 to define the laws regarding juvenile cases.
The counsel for the aggrieved, Mr Asghar Khan Rokri, told the court that all the appeals were dismissed, and as such any delay in Najeebullah’s execution would be tantamount to contempt of court.
However, state counsel Mr K F Butt told the court the review committee was working to comply with the instructions of the high court and as such it would soon present its report but the apex court directed them to halt the review and adjourned the hearing for April 7 next.