The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) deplores the fact that the Supreme Court Registrar Office disallowed Zahid Abdullah from representing himself in person before the Supreme Court in the Hamid Mir case on the basis of his blindness.
The statement says it was a clear violation of Article 13 of the United Nation’s Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPWD), which Pakistan ratified in July 2011. This article requires states to provide reasonable accommodations to the disabled so that they could have access to justice and participate in the legal proceedings at all stages.
Zahid Abdullah presented himself before the Registrar’s Office on Tuesday with an application to be added as a party in the case — petition No 105/2012, Hamid Mir and Absar Alam Vs Federation of Pakistan and others. Despite repeated requests by Abdullah that he had the right to represent himself in person before the court, the official at the Registrar’s Office remained adamant that Abdullah could only represent himself before the Supreme Court through ‘next friend’ or through ‘Advocate-on-Record’.
When the official was asked to cite the Supreme Court rules under which he was disallowing the applicant to represent himself in person, the official said he was being ‘prudent’ as the rules did not say anything on this issue. The CPDI urges the chief justice to take notice of this incident and issue guidelines in this regard so that persons with disabilities could exercise their right of access to justice on an equal basis with others. Abdullah has the right of appeal against this decision which he intends to exercise on Thursday (October 11).
Zahid Abdullah is a programme manager at CPDI and has done wonderful work for citizens’ basic right of ‘access to information’. He has a long history of fighting against the government departments in different courts for the right of access to information and has no parallel in the country of 180 million despite being disabled.