ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Wednesday issued its written order wherein it had issued non-bailable arrest warrants for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia and Avenfielf references.

A division bench of IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani issued the orders and also directed the government to execute arrest warrants for the former prime minister through the Pakistani High Commission in United Kingdom.

After issuing the aforementioned directions, the court deferred hearing in these references till September 22.

The court noted in its order, “Let non-bailable warrants of arrest of the appellant be issued for 22.09.2020. The warrants of arrest shall be executed by the Foreign Office through High Commission of Pakistan in United Kingdom.”

The IHC bench mentioned in its order in the matter of Al-Azizia reference that on the last date of hearing, it was brought to the attention of the court that the appellant has been declared a ‘proclaimed offender’ in another reference filed before Accountability Court No.III, Islamabad and the learned Additional Prosecutor General, NAB argued that since this is the position, applications filed by the appellant cannot be proceeded further.

In this connection, the counsel for the appellant submitted that appellant has been declared a proclaimed offender in other proceedings does not preclude his right of audience in the instant matter in light of decision of this court reported as ‘Inamur Rahiem Vs. Chairman, National Accountability Bureau. 

Directs govt to execute arrest warrants through Pakistani High Commission in UK

He contended that exceptional circumstances exist in the instant matter, as the appellant is indisposed and as per the medical certificates appended with the application, he is unable to travel. He further contended that in light of a decision of the IHC, an absconder retains his fundamental rights and can agitate proceedings in the matters other than in which he has been declared a proclaimed offender.

The IHC bench noted, “Admittedly, suspension of sentence of appellant and bail granted by this Court lapsed and even Government of Punjab refused to extend suspension of his sentence and since 27.02.2020, the appellant is not on bail.” It added, “The thrust of the arguments by learned counsel for the appellant was that under section 423 Cr.P.C. the appellant can still be heard and his appeal decided on merits. We defer the matter regarding decision of appeal on merits for the time being, as we feel that at this juncture, it is of paramount importance that since appellant is not before the Court, as he ought to have been after lapse of bail, to procure his attendance.”

The court further stated that in this regard, this court had already ordered the appellant to appear before the court and surrender to the authorities before the next date of hearing which he did not do so and filed another application.

“It is an admitted position that fugitive from law has no rights before the court of law except where exceptional circumstances exist,” maintained the IHC bench. It added that the appellant is not entitled to invoke inherent jurisdiction and request recalling of order dated 01.09.2020 on the basis of his indisposition when especially on the repeated queries, the counsel for the appellant contended that appellant is not hospitalized. 

It stated that the appellant’s suspension of sentence ended on 27.02.2020 and he did not challenge said order passed by Government of Punjab nor did he approach this court for further extension in suspension of sentence; the appellant remained silent for almost six months till such time that instant appeals were fixed. 

“The conduct of the appellant, in the facts and circumstances, does not warrant any exercise of discretion in his favour,” the bench added. The court mentioned that in so far as request of appellant for decision of case on merits is concerned, the referred issue shall be decided in accordance with section 423 Cr.P.C. as well as case law on the subject after the process for procuring attendance of appellant is completed.

It continued that it is reiterated that at this juncture, only order is being passed and opportunity is being afforded to the applicant to appear before the Court. The decision regarding deciding the appeal on merit shall be taken at later stage. 

In the matter of Avenfield reference, Sharif’s counsel contended that the appellant’s sentence was suspended and he was granted bail by this court and it was submitted that since then the appellant had to travel abroad for his treatment due to life threatening indisposition. It was further contended that the appellant is unable to return to Pakistan and appear before the court due to his condition.

The court noted in its order that since in a connected appeal i.e. Criminal Appeal No.01 of 2019, the bail granted to the appellant lapsed, hence orders have been passed for his attendance and appearance before the Court. In the referred appeal an application was also filed seeking almost the same relief as in the instant application. 

It added that the said application has been disposed of, vide judgment of the even date on the ground that first attendance of the appellant is to be procured and the decision regarding the disposal of the appeal on merit shall be rendered after the procedure is completed. 

“Since the instant application is also to the same effect as mentioned above and the appellant has been declared a proclaimed offender and also the fact that he is seeking perpetual exemption in essence, the application is misconceived,” maintained the bench. 

It further said that for what has been stated above, the instant application is disposed of, however, it is clarified that the decision regarding the disposal of the appeal of the appellant on merit under Section 423 Cr.P.C shall be taken after the procedure for procuring attendance of the appellant is completed, in accordance with Section 423 Cr.P.C and the applicable law.  The IHC bench also said that since the appellant is not present which he ought to have been under the terms of the suspension of sentence and bail granted to the appellant, non-bailable warrants of the appellant are issued.