KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) had a busy year in 2018. With Chief Justice Saqib Nisar set to retire in January 2019, the year saw landmark decisions by the apex court.
Here are seven high profile decisions the top court took this year.
Zainab rape and murder case
The year started off with the horrific rape and murder case of minor Zainab in Kasur. The SC took swift action and a suo motu notice was taken with the CJP ordering suspects be arrested and presented before the court and “not be killed in an encounter”.
Zainab was kidnapped on January 4 from near her aunt’s house in Kasur. Her body was discovered five days later from a garbage heap. The post-mortem report revealed that she had been raped and murdered. Protests had broken out in Kasur following the incident.
Imran Ali, a local of the area, was arrested and convicted of the crime and was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court following a speedy trial after substantial evidence was presented against him.
In October, Imran, who had been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Zainab and twelve other minors girls was hanged at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.
Another suo motu notice was taken in relation with the Zainab murder case when anchor Shahid Masood alleged on his show that convict Imran Ali had connections with influential political personalities and had 37 bank accounts.
He submitted an apology to the apex court and expressed remorse over the inconvenience caused to the judiciary and others by him.
In its report issued on March 1, the investigation committee led by FIA DG rejected Masood’s claim that Imran had links with any international child pornography ring. It further refuted Imran having 37 bank accounts or contact with influential people.
The apex court took suo motu of the Faizabad sit-in, which had paralysed the federal capital at the start of the new year. Hearings in the high-profile case continued for a year, with the SC reserving its judgement.
During the hearing, apex court judge Qazi Faez Isa had lamented that supremacy and sovereignty of Parliament is continuously being undermined, and asked if the country’s future will be determined by the Parliament or ‘insidious forces’.
The bench conducted several hearings and examined both the role of the intelligence agencies as well as the conduct of the TLP.
Nawaz, Tareen disqualified for life
A verdict which sent shockwaves through the political landscape of Pakistan was the disqualification of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PTI stalwart Jahangir Tareen.
Declared not ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ by the court, the year saw curtains fall on the political careers of the two senior politicians.
“We are inclined to hold that the incapacity created for failing to meet the qualifications under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution imposes a permanent bar which remains in effect so long as the declaratory judgment supporting the conclusion of one of the delinquent kinds of conduct under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution remains in effect,” said the Supreme Court’s much-awaited judgment.
The decision also affected dozens of lawmakers who were declared ineligible on the basis of holding fake degrees and dual nationalities.
The chief justice established the Diamer-Bhasha Dam Fund while directing the government to begin construction on the reservoirs to resolve the country’s water shortage.
The CJP urged the nation to donate generously to the fund and made foreign fund-raising trips. Questions were raised regarding the feasibility of crowd-funding dams, but Justice Nisar shut down critics and warned those who questioned the jurisdiction of the apex court.
“Those who resort to criticism do it on other matters, but not on the issue of dams’ donation. We know our jurisdiction,” the CJP had said in September.
As of December 14, over Rs8 billion have been collected for the dam fund.
Katas Raj Temple case
Another significant suo motu was taken on the drying up of water from the Katas Raj temple complex, a Hindu pilgrimage site.
Cement companies operating in the area were held responsible for drilling boreholes and utilising groundwater, which eventually led to a drop in sub-ground level water and drying up of the pond present at the temple site.
Hindu pilgrims from around the world visit the Katas Raj temple complex during the Maha Shivratri festival and bathe in the ‘sacred pond’ to seek forgiveness. Some believe the water holds healing powers.
The bench, headed by the chief justice, ordered DG Khan Cement to deposit Rs80 million for using the water and Rs20 million for misleading the court. The court instructed the fine to be deposited in the dam fund.
Ban on airing Indian content on local tv channels
In October, the apex court imposed a ban on airing of Indian content on Pakistan television channels. A three-member bench of the top court, headed by the CJP, imposed the restriction.
While giving the order, CJP Nisar said, “Indian content must be banned as they are shutting down our dams. Should we not ban their channels?”
Aasia Bibi verdict
In a win for minorities, the apex court acquitted Aasia Bibi – a Christian woman accused of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death – and set aside an earlier judgment passed by a lower court.
The 51-year-old Christian woman was on the death row since November 2010 after she was convicted on charges of committing blasphemy during an argument with two Muslim women in Sheikhupura.
Bibi challenged the verdict in October 2014, however, the LHC upheld the death sentence. The apex court had stayed the execution in July 2015.