–CJP reprimands magistrate for ‘not following legal procedure’
–Says ‘we can’t ignore the law and sentence a man’
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday acquitted a man who had been convicted by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in a murder case and had been imprisoned since.
In 2009, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) had ruled Asfandyar guilty of murdering a student. It was reported that he had kidnapped Butt for ransom and killed him when his family failed to pay the money. Later, LHC overturned the verdict and sentenced him to life.
As a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa heard the case, he asserted that the prosecution had been unable to prove its allegations against Asfandar and reprimanded the magistrate, Kanwar Anwar Ali, for “not following the legal procedure and failing to conduct the identity parade”.
Commenting that he was distressed to see such cases, Justice Khosa lamented that suspects were treated in this manner. He summoned the magistrate on February 22 for “people who are supposed to follow the law should be accountable”.
Then, he mocked if people were trained before being appointed as a magistrate. As Asfandyar’s lawyer conceded that “legal training is mandatory for someone to be appointed”, Justice Khosa interjected that perhaps the ATC and LHC had “failed to look at the law”.
He said: “We can’t ignore the law and sentence a man.”
Justice Khosa also highlighted discrepancies in witnesses’ statements referring to the number of men quoted to be seen disposing of the dead body. The chief justice then raised questions over the procedure that the police followed to determine the guilt of a suspect.
He suggested that the testimonies may have been “developed” after arresting the suspect and asked how it had come to occur. Asfandar’s legal counsel responded that people had got to know of his involvement through a “source” and found that the body had been thrown into a stream.
“Everyday we see that police get to the suspect immediately. The suspect is real but all the testimonies are false,” Justice Khosa regretted. Someone has to ensure that law is being followed, he said, for where will the law go if we simply shut our eyes too.
On January 31, while overturning a Peshawar High Court (PHC) verdict, the chief justice had come down hard on the practice of recording false testimonies before courts, saying that it creates hurdles for courts.
“In other countries, people speak the truth and laws are debated but here, hurdles are created for courts,” he had complained.
Before assuming power, Justice Khosa had repeatedly said that all judges who handed sentences on false testimonies would be held accountable.
“False witnesses will soon be behind bars and the entire system will be back on the right track as soon as a couple of perjurers are sentenced to life in prison,” he had said while hinting at reforms in the criminal justice system.