Pakistan's Supreme Court has ruled that schizophrenia is not a mental disorder as per the law of the land, thus sending a mentally ill man to the gallows for the murder of a religious scholar. The United Nations had told Islamabad that the death sentence in the 2002 case was a breach of international law because the accused, Imdad Ali, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and psychosis in 2012.

Ali’s doctors had concluded that his “rational thinking and decision-making capabilities” were impaired and declared him clinically insane in a report submitted in 2013. However, Ali’s final appeal to the court was turned down in 2015. His execution was stayed after his wife moved court and submitted a last-minute appeal.

The country’s highest court on Thursday gave its approval for the sentence to be carried out after it noted that schizophrenia was “a recoverable disease, which, in all the cases, does not fall within the definition of ‘mental disorder’ as defined in the Mental Health Ordinance, 2001”. The court said Ali’s condition was not a permanent one and varied according to the “level of stress”. The bench also said rules related to mental sickness were not subjugated to delay the execution of death sentence, The Express Tribune reported.

While dismissing Ali's mercy plea of the ground of mental illness, the court cited the Indian Supreme Court judgment in Bhishan Gupta vs the Union of India of 1977. In that case the convict's mother had moved the court, arguing her son should not be executed because he of "unsound mind" and suffering from schizophrenia. The court had dismissed her plea and held that the convict did not suffer from legal insanity, neither during his trial nor at the time of the offence was committed.

Ali, 50, could be executed on October 26 despite strong criticism of the verdict, according to The Independent. Reprieve, a UK-based legal charity, said, “It is outrageous for Pakistan’s Supreme Court to claim that schizophrenia is not a mental illness, and flies in the face of accepted medical knowledge, including Pakistan’s own mental health laws.” The director of the NGO urged the president of the country to urgently intervene to stop “this sickening attempt to hang” Ali.

The UN’s human rights office has also called on the Nawaz Sharif government to stop the execution and initiate a re-trial “in compliance with international standards”. “It is a violation of death penalty safeguards to impose capital punishment on individuals with a psychosocial disability,” said the Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights.