SC rules schizophrenia is 'not a mental disorder'

Published: October 21, 2016

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.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Rex Minor
    Oct 21, 2016 - 2:43PM

    The abolishment of the Capital puishment, should resolve such dilemmas. Some one should tell the SC that we are in 21st century and no longer in 7th century.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rahi milla
    Oct 21, 2016 - 2:49PM

    I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision. If the person in question has a mental illness, it should not be assumed that he has no mental capacity. If he has mental capacity then he can make his will. If he does not have the mental capacity then a relative can get lasting power of attorney to make a will on the patient’s behalf. If court thinks that they cannot find a person in the family with no pecuniary interests, then court can appoint a guardian who could do it for the patient. Therefore he would still not have his sentence carried out without any hindrance.Recommend

  • Zafar
    Oct 21, 2016 - 3:43PM

    so now pakistani judges are copying from verdicts given by indian judges 40 yrs ago…Recommend

  • Menon
    Oct 21, 2016 - 4:38PM

    Only in schizophrenic Pakistan, schizophrenia is not mental disease!

    Idiocy prevails over sicience and facts again!Recommend

  • BrainBro
    Oct 21, 2016 - 5:16PM

    Schizophrenia is a recognized and probably one of the most common “mental illnesses” as stated by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). It is a well-known document used in the medical field and released by the American Psychiatric Association.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Oct 21, 2016 - 5:26PM

    Supreme Court of Pakistan has applied Indian Supreme Court’s 40 years old ruling but did not bother to know that how much mental disorder science has progressed in last forty years. Nobody bother to read or try to investigate for poor man. Recommend

  • a&a
    Oct 21, 2016 - 6:26PM

    Very knowledgeable…..Recommend

  • Mehdi Raza
    Oct 21, 2016 - 7:39PM

    What kind of voting you have started on this page?

    The Supreme court didn’t say that “schizophrenia” is not a mental disorder. But the respected chief justice said that psychiatric disorder like schizophrenia does not subjugate the death sentence.

    Please act responsibly.


  • Mian
    Oct 21, 2016 - 9:45PM

    SC needs tutorials in psychiatry.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Oct 22, 2016 - 12:10AM

    When laws are out of step with the times ( like this case ) they need to be revisited. This is the job of the law makers ( parliamentarians ) and sadly they are busy with all else other than their own jobs.Recommend

  • Shahrukh Fatah
    Oct 22, 2016 - 6:53AM

    Unbelievable that the Supreme Court can pass such a judgement. Why give an example of an Indian Court? Dumbfounded! Recommend

  • Imran Ahmed
    Oct 22, 2016 - 5:59PM

    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.Recommend

  • Kam
    Oct 22, 2016 - 7:39PM

    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.Recommend

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