LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Tuesday directed the Punjab Home Department to decide the matter of remission in sentence sought by a juvenile convict who had been on death row for the last 19 years.

A division bench headed by Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan and Justice Shehram Sarwar took up the petition moved by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP).  Barrister Sarah Belal appeared on behalf of the organisation, submitting that Muhammad Iqbal was just 17 years old when he was declared guilty in a murder case in 1999 and was sentenced to death. She told the court that ossification test was conducted on the request of the prosecution and the results confirmed his minority. The fact about age of Muhammad Iqbal was also recognized by the trial court, the counsel said.

She argued that under Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, a juvenile offender could not be sentenced to death. A Presidential notification granted all juveniles like Iqbal automatic remission in sentences on the basis of an age determination inquiry, Sara said.

She said that both the state and the court recognized Iqbal’s juvenility and yet he had been denied his basic right to qualify for reduction for almost 20 years.

The lawyer argued that the National Commission on Human Rights had directed the home department to stay Iqbal’s execution and conduct an investigation into his eligibility for remission in July last year. However, she said the results from the investigation were eight months overdue.

She prayed to the court to direct the home department to submit the report of the investigation in line with the presidential notification and NCHR’s directive. On this, the court directed the Punjab Home Department to hold and conclude the investigation into the case of condemned prisoner Iqbal within two weeks and determine whether the prisoner was to be granted the remission.

Barrister Belal said Iqbal’s death sentence, under both Pakistan’s domestic laws and international legal commitments, was incompatible. She said the state issued warrants for execution of Iqbal twice in the last year alone, despite being aware of his juvenility.

She said she was hopeful that the court’s direction would be complied with, so that Iqbal may be provided the relief he had been entitled to for nearly two decades.  Clarification: About appeal of another condemned prisoner Imran Ali, the LHC issued clarification that a division bench headed by Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan had not so far been issued notice. He said the maiden hearing of the appeal would be held before the bench on March 12.

PETITION AGAINST TORTURE

ON BLIND PERSONS

A petition was moved to the Lahore High Court on Tuesday challenging police torture on blind persons and their arrest amid their protests for rights.  The Judicial Activism Panel (JAP) filed the petition through Advocate Azhar Siddique, submitting that the Punjab government had failed to implement employment quota for blind persons despite several promises.  He said that police subject blind persons to physical torture whenever they hold peaceful protests for their rights in the city. He said during a recent protest the police not only manhandled the blind persons but also arrested them. The petitioner prayed to the court to order strict action against the police for manhandling and arresting blind persons. He prayed to the court to seek an explanation from the provincial government about non-implementation of employment quota for the blind persons.