Supreme Court of Pakistan has commuted the death sentences of two mentally ill prisoners to life imprisonment in a landmark decision. This is the first judgment of its kind to be handed down by the Supreme Court on mental illness.
According to reports from the federal capital Islamabad, the decision was taken by a five-member bench of the Lahore Registry of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, February 10, announced by Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik.
The court also directed the authorities to amend the country’s laws on the sentencing of the mentally ill. However, in order to commute the death sentence of an offender to life imprisonment on the basis of the mental illness of the offender concerned, a regular medical board must also issue a certificate stating that the inmate is mentally ill.
The decision was immediately welcomed by Justice Project Pakistan, an NGO working for the rights of prisoners. The same organization had been fighting its legal battle for many years on behalf of the two prisoners whose death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court.
International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Pakistan signed the international convention in 2008, which prohibits the death penalty for mentally ill prisoners.
Since becoming a member of the Convention, Pakistan has carried out the death penalty for only one mentally ill prisoner. His name was Munir Hussain, who was hanged in 2015 according to the position of Justice Project Pakistan, even though he had been mentally ill for a long time.
In Pakistan, life imprisonment for a convict usually means 14 years imprisonment. The commutation of the death sentences of Kanizan Bibi and Imdad Ali to life imprisonment means that they should be released now as they have both spent more than 14 years in jail.
Both will now be released once a medical board confirms their mental illness and approves their release. Otherwise, they will be treated in a mental hospital.