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Karachi

December 7, 2017

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SC upholds convictions but commutes death sentences of two Jundullah activists

SC upholds convictions but commutes death sentences of two Jundullah activists

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal filed by two Jundullah activists against their convictions in the case of the March 2004 attack on a Rangers patrol van, but commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment.
The convicts, Attaur Rehman and Shahzad Bajwa, activists of the banned outfit Jundullah, were sentenced to death on March 5, 2006, by an anti-terrorism court that found them guilty of martyring a Rangers soldier and a passerby in the March 19, 2004, attack under the Baloch Colony Bridge.
According to the prosecution, the appellants fired and hurled a grenade at the Rangers van stationed under the Baloch Colony Bridge, resulting in the martyrdom of a Rangers soldier, Ishtiaq Hussain, and a passerby, Kashif. Two more Rangers personnel, Havaldar Mohammed Muneer and Naik Mushaque Ahmed, and three other people were injured in the attack.
Rehman and Bajwa’s appeals against their conviction were dismissed by the Sindh High Court in 2013. Their counsel, M Ilyas Khan, submitted that the trial court and high court did not consider defects in the identification parade of the appellants and requested the apex court to set aside their orders.
After perusal of evidence and hearing all arguments, the three-member SC bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa observed that the case pertained to an incident of terrorism. The court observed that it may be true that no culprit had been identified or named in the first information report of the incident but, after some clues to the involvement of the appellants and their co-accused were found, they were arrested in connection with the case and put through an identification parade.
The court said that proceedings of the identification parade showed that the appellants had been singled out by eyewitnesses as part of the culprits who actively participated in the attack. The SC bench observed that the trial court and high court had undertaken an exhaustive analysis of the evidence available on record and had then concurred in their conclusion that the guilt of the appellants had been established beyond reasonable doubt.
The apex court, however, also said that some peculiarities had been noticed in the case that warrant exercise of discretion in the matter of the appellants’ death sentence. It was said that although all other formalities required by the law, vis-à-vis holding of an identification parade, had been duly complied with, the dummies used in the exercise had remained unchanged when different accused were put through the identification test.
The SC observed that this was an irregularity which, while not vitiating the parade itself, put the court to caution. The bench further said that while the trial and high courts had held in their impugned judgments that firearms recovered from the appellants had matched with empties found at the attack site, such observations by the lower courts were not factually correct.
The SC said the allegations levelled against the appellants and the co-accused were joint and common and no specific injury had been attributed to any particular accused. Thus, the bench observed, it was not clear as to which one of the accused, including the appellants, were actually responsible for causing fatal injuries to the deceased.
The court observed that in such circumstances, generally, a death sentence is withheld when it is not clear as to whether a particular culprit was actually responsible for causing the victim’s death or not. The SC bench said that for all such reasons it had been decided to exercise caution and to err, if at all, on the side of precaution.
The court dismissed the appeals to the extent of all convictions and sentences to appellants recorded and upheld by the trial court and high court, except the sentences of death passed against them on two counts of charges pertaining to murder with terrorism.
The SC ruled that the sentences of death were to be reduced to life imprisonment on each count. The court said all sentences of imprisonment passed against the appellants shall run concurrently and the benefit under Section 382-B of the CrPC shall be extended to them.

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