SC rules schizophrenia is 'not a mental disorder'

Apex court issues detailed judgment in the famous Imdad Ali case

Hasnaat Malik October 21, 2016
Apex court issues detailed judgment in the famous Imdad Ali case. PHOTO SOURCE: TWITTER/GulfTimes_QATAR

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has held that a psychiatric disorder like schizophrenia does not subjugate the death sentence.

“In our opinion, rules relating to mental sickness are not subjugative to delay the execution of death sentence which has been awarded to the convict,” says the Supreme Court in its 11-page judgment on the famous Imdad Ali case.

Safia Bano, wife of the convict Imdad Ali, had approached the Supreme Court, claiming that her husband was insane and the execution of death sentence may be delayed till he gets medical treatment so that he can write down his will.

Imdad, from Burewala district of southern Punjab, was awarded death sentence in 2002 in a murder case. His sentence was upheld by all superior courts, including the Supreme Court. The president has also rejected his mercy petition.

However, when black warrants were issued for his execution on July 26, his wife filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court Multan bench to delay her husband’s hanging till the recovery of his mental illness. The high court rejected her plea on August 23.

She then approached the apex court with the same plea. A three-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali upheld the decision of the high court in a short order on September 27.

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In its detailed judgment issued on Thursday, the Supreme Court said: “Schizophrenia is not a permanent mental disorder; rather it is an imbalance which can increase or decrease depending on the level of stress.

“In recent years, the prognosis has been improved with drugs, by vigorous psychological and social managements, and rehabilitation. It is, therefore, a recoverable disease, which in all the cases, does not fall with the definition of ‘mental disorder’ as defined in the Mental Health Ordinance, 2001,” reads the verdict authored by the chief justice, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune.

The apex court said subordinate courts discarded his (the victim’s) plea of mental illness which cannot be deemed as “lunatic”. The medical records brought before the courts show that he is a psychiatric patient suffering from “paranoid schizophrenia”.

The SC cited the judgment of the Indian Supreme Court in Bhishan Gupta vs the Union of India of 1977, which was similar to this case. The mother of the convict had filed a petition before the High Court of Delhi, praying that her son’s execution be withheld on the ground that he had become a person of unsound mind and suffering from schizophrenia.

The Indian High Court dismissed the plea. The same plea was dismissed by the Indian Supreme Court, arguing the convict did not suffer from legal insanity -- either during his trial or at the time of the commission of the offence.

“Interestingly, as the statements on and (the) origins of the Common Law rules on the subject in England, against the execution of an insane person, maybe, we, in this country, are governed entirely by our statute law on such a matter.

“The courts have no power to prohibit the carrying out of a sentence of death legally passed upon on an accused person on the ground either that there is some rule in the Common Law of England against the execution of an insane person sentenced to death or some theological, religious, or moral objection to it.

“Our statute law on the subject is based entirely on secular considerations which place the protection and welfare of society in the forefront,” the SC quoted the Indian Supreme Court as writing in its 1977 judgment.

The court says schizophrenia is mental illness in which a person becomes unable to link thought, emotion and behaviour, leading to the withdrawal from reality and personal relationships.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2016.


Kam | 7 years ago | Reply Mental illness and crime are closely related. Most serious criminals do suffer from mental illnesses and if mental illness becomes a defence against crime. All these criminals will be scot free and keep killing. There need to be a mental institute to keep them.
Imran Ahmed | 7 years ago | Reply @Mian: It is not that, the judges explain that they know what Schizophrenia is. It is wickedness that makes them hide behind legalese to avoid dispensing compassionate justice. These individuals are taking a populist view even though they have the discretion and the understanding to do what is right.
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