ISLAMABAD: There may be no global precedent for revisiting closed cases, but for the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, that is not reason enough to not revisit the ‘rarest among the rare’ murder case of the party’s founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq on Tuesday conceded before the Supreme Court that the judicial history was devoid of precedents on revisiting cases after they were closed.
Haq was assisting an 11-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, hearing a presidential reference that sought the apex court’s opinion on revisiting the murder case.
Though he could not find a judicial verdict related to the questions raised in the reference, the attorney general did quote an Indian verdict of 1992 over a water dispute between two states – Karnataka and Kerala.
The Indian Supreme Court exercised its advisory jurisdiction in response to that presidential reference, he said, but added that the case was not previously concluded since it was adjudicated upon by a tribunal.
The attorney general argued that the court could take up the matter if it decided that no admissible evidence was corroborated to convict a person.
Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmani, meanwhile, observed that in the past, references were sent to the apex court when presidents needed advice on constitutional issues.
Earlier, PPP’s vice president Babar Awan said that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s case was the “rarest among rare cases.”
Awan said Bhutto’s case started without issuance of a notice to the accused and provision of an opportunity to consult with lawyers. It was transferred from the trial court to the high court without any cogent reasons, he said, adding that lawyers acted as prosecutors and amicus curiae simultaneously during Bhutto’s trial.
The chief justice reminded Awan that the points he raised could not be recorded at this stage and that he could submit them when he returned for rebuttal.
For and against
Advocate General Punjab Hanif Katana opposed revisiting Bhutto’s case as sought in the reference, citing lack of precedent. He said that in Canada, about 200 references were sent to the judiciary but they were all based on constitutional issues.
In UK and Scotland, he added, legislation was done for revisiting decades-old cases.
Advocate General Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Asadullah Khan Chamkani, however, said that under Article 4 of the Constitution, the rights of individuals should be dealt in accordance with law.
To provide justice, the court could reopen cases where justice was not done, he said.
The court adjourned the hearing until Wednesday (today) after the bench asked the amicus curiae to assist it over the maintainability of the reference.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2012.