Pak SC commutes death penalty
for inmates with mental disorders

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LAHORE: The Supreme Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence of two mentally challenged patients, who have been behind bars for decades, to life imprisonment.

A five-judge larger bench of the SC’s Lahore Registry headed by Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik issued the 51-page judgment.

Headed by Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, a five-judge bench announced the judgement at the Lahore registry. Other members of the bench included Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

The bench had on Jan 7, 2021, reserved its verdict after marathon hearings on three appeals pertaining to as many mentally ill prisoners on death row amid a consensus from the amicus curiae and advocate generals that such inmates should not be executed.

Earlier, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had also taken a suo motu notice of Hayat’s case on January 12 in the wake of a public outcry, and had suspended his execution warrant.

The jail authorities had obtained the death warrant for Hayat on January 10 despite an order of the National Commission for Human Rights restraining them from doing so while the Supreme Court is setting jurisprudence on the matter.

Hayat has spent 16 years on death row after he was sentenced to death for fatally shooting his colleague – a police official. He was first diagnosed as a schizophrenic in 2008 by the jail authorities. Several psychiatrists who have examined him since then have diagnosed him as actively suffering from schizophrenia, with no improvement in condition. The fact of his mental illness and treatment within the jail was never raised by his state counsel or disclosed by the jail authorities during his trial and appeals.

Justice Project Pakistan Executive Director Sarah Belal adds: “We are relieved that Khizar Hayat’s life has been saved for the time being. However, this is the fourth time in three years that the jail authorities have scheduled his execution – dragging Hayat and his family through this is nothing short of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. A stay is not enough, mentally ill prisoners belong to a mental health facility not death row.”