Schizophrenia not a mental illness: Pakistan's top court

A three-judge bench of Pakistan's Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Anwer Zaheer Jamali, ruled that schizophrenia is 'not a permanent mental disorder'. (Wikipedia) Photograph:( WION )

Reuters Islamabad, Pakistan Oct 21, 2016, 10.36 AM (IST)

Pakistan’s apex court has said that schizophrenia does not fall in its legal definition of mental disorders, allowing the execution of a mentally ill man convicted of murder. 

Fifty-year-old Imdad Ali was sentenced to death for murdering a cleric in 2001 but in 2012 government doctors certified Ali as being a paranoid schizophrenic. 

Ali’s lawyers say he is unfit to be executed as he is unable to understand his crime and punishment. Doing so, the lawyers say, would violate Pakistan’s obligations under a United Nations treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court comprising of three judges and led by chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, however, ruled that schizophrenia is "not a permanent mental disorder".

"It is, therefore, a recoverable disease, which, in all the cases, does not fall within the definition of 'mental disorder'," the judges said in Thursday's verdict, Reuters reported.

The verdict was based on two dictionary definitions of the term 'schizophrenia', as well as a 1988 judgment by India's top court.

Dr Tahir Feroze, a government psychiatrist who has treated Ali for the last eight years of his incarceration, told Reuters,he and two other doctors certified Ali's condition in 2012.

Ali suffers from delusions that he controls the world, is persecuted and he hears voices in his head that command him, according to Feroze and Safia Bano, Ali's wife.

"He is completely delusional," Bano told Reuters.

According to the American Psychological Association schizophrenia is  "a serious mental illness characterised by incoherent or illogical thoughts, bizarre behavior and speech, and delusions or hallucinations, such as hearing voices".

Ali's lawyer, Sarah Belal, says the government report certifying Ali's condition had never been presented in court before 2016, Reuters reported.

In its judgment, the court dismissed the medical records and an affidavit from Feroze.

Pakistan has executed 425 people since reintroducing the death penalty in 2014. Ali will now be executed on Wednesday.



(WION with inputs from Reuters)