SC to continue hearings into important cases despite virus shutdown




On Tuesday,  A spokesperson of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan said that the court was discharging its duties as the judicial arm of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan amid the coronavirus crisis.

“The duty to protect the rights of the people is a constitutional obligation of the courts,” the spokesperson said on Tuesday afternoon, as the virus crisis threatened a country-wide shutdown of all activities.

“Preventive measures put in place to guard against the coronavirus are being implemented,” the spokesperson affirmed, adding that those over the age of 50 had been advised to work from home.

“A screening procedure is being implemented at the entry gates of the top court. Sanitizers have also been installed in the court premises to encourage people to disinfect their hands,” the spokesperson noted.

The court spokesperson also underlined that all benches of the Supreme Court of Pakistan would be available to hold proceedings as the federal government mulled shutting down offices to stop the virus.

“The top court and the high courts will continue to hold hearings into the important cases,” the spokesperson said, adding that only lawyers should come to courts, and people should exercise caution in coming to courts.

The Islamabad High Court had last week ordered the issuance of bail for prisoners who are facing trial for minor crimes in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

IHC Chief Justice AtharMinullah made the decision after hearing a case regarding 1,362 prisoners being incarcerated in overcrowded jails. During the hearing, the court inquired from officials if prisoners who are facing jail-time without having been tried could be released.

Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat assured the court that no prisoner held at Adiala Jail has been infected with the virus. However, Justice Minallah worried that the coronavirus outbreak had worsened in China after it spread among prisoners.

Pakistan reported its first case of coronavirus in an inmate on Tuesday. According to , the prisoner is incarcerated at Lahore’s Camp Jail and had complained of a fever on March 18.

Jail Superintendent Asad Warraich told the TV channel that the prisoner was arrested last month while smuggling drugs from Italy. He had been transferred back to the jail after the test, said the officer.

Courts around the world have issued orders to release prisoners serving jail terms on minor charges to lower the chances of an epidemic in overcrowded jails.