Commutes sentences of two schizophrenic prisoners
The Supreme Court abolished death penalties for prisoners with mental illnesses in a landmark judgment on Wednesday.
If a prisoner on death row is unable to comprehend the rationale behind their punishment due to a mental illness, then carrying out the death sentence does not “meet the ends of justice”, the court’s order read.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik announced the judgment at the Lahore registry.
The decision was taken after the court heard three cases of prisoners on death row showing symptoms of mental illnesses. These were Imdad Ali, Kanizan Bibi, and Ghulam Abbas. They have spent 18, 30, and 14 years in prison respectively, and have been convicted of murder.
The court changes Kanizan Bibi and Ali’s sentence to life imprisonment and has ordered a new petition to be prepared for Ghulam Abbas which clearly showed symptoms of his illness. The petition will have to be prepared on the basis of the Prison Rules and submitted to the president.
The court has instructed the Punjab government to move the prisoners from jail to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health in Lahore.
It has ordered the provincial and federal governments to form a medical board “comprising three qualified and experienced psychiatrists and two psychologists from public sector hospitals” for the examination of the prisoners on death row.
“The board will ensure that such mentally ill condemned prisoners are not executed,” the order read.
The court has decided to substitute the terms “unsoundness of mind, lunatic and unsound mind” mentioned in the PPC and the Prison Rules with “mental illness” or “mental disorder”.
On the other hand, the court clarified that not every mental illness can qualify for an exemption from the death sentence.
“This exemption will be applicable only in that case where a medical board, consisting of mental health professionals, certifies after a thorough examination and evaluation that the condemned prisoner no longer has higher mental functions to appreciate the rationale behind the sentence of death awarded to them.”