KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday put off the hearing of the criminal review application of Shahrukh Jatoi, a death row convict in the Shahzeb murder case, seeking his retrial in the juvenile court after partly hearing arguments from his counsel.

Advocate Farooq H. Naek appeared on behalf of the convict and contended that his client was juvenile at the time of committing the crime, therefore, he could not be tried under the anti-terrorism law. He asked the court to order retrial of the case in a regular court as the accused person was not adult at the time of the crime.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Abdur Rasool Memon adjourned the hearing to Sept 2 for hearing further arguments from the applicant’s lawyer.

Earlier, Assistant Prosecutor General Muhammed Iqbal Soormo vehemently opposed the application in his arguments.

Shahrukh Jatoi, son of Sikandar Jatoi, and his friend Nawab Siraj Ali Talpur were on June 7, 2013 sentenced to death and two other co-accused got life imprisonment for killing 20-year-old Shahzeb, son of DSP Aurangzeb Khan, on Dec 25, 2012 near his home in the Defence Housing Authority.

Then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had also taken suo motu notice of the incident that had sparked widespread outrage across the country through newspapers, TV channels and social media.

After the heinous crime, hundreds of people had gathered outside the Karachi Press Club to urge the chief justice to take notice of the police failure to arrest the killers.

The incident also triggered a widespread debate over whether the country’s elite could be held accountable for crimes they committed as the prime accused belonged to powerful feudal families of Sindh.

Later in a speedy trial, Judge Ghulam Mustafa Memon of the Anti-Terrorism Court-3 sentenced Shahrukh Jatoi and a co-accused, Nawab Siraj Talpur, to death and Sajjad Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari, the Talpurs’ servant, to suffer life imprisonment in the case.

An application — filed on behalf of the victim’s family

in the SHC under Section 345 (2) of the criminal procedure code, asking the court to allow the convicts and the legal heirs of the victim to settle the matter out of court as they had pardoned them, waiving the right to Qisas and Diyat (compensation) — has been pending disposal.

According to the prosecution, Shahzeb had an altercation with the accused persons as they tried to tease his sister and later the issue was settled by some elders, but they killed the victim by opening fire on his vehicle.

Initially, the case (FIR 591/12) was registered under Sections 302 (premeditated murder), 109 (abetment) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code on a complaint of the deceased’s father. However, during the investigation, Section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modestly) of the PPC and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 were incorporated in the FIR.

The unfortunate episode started with the misbehaviour of accused Lashari with the victim’s sister. She stated in the trial court that the accused hurled indecent remarks at her when she was to enter her 11th-floor apartment upon her return from a wedding.

The teenage girl deposed that she immediately phoned her mother about the misbehaviour of the Talpurs’ servant.

The girl’s mother stated in her deposition in court that she immediately sent her son home as his sister was in trouble.

The victim returned and had an altercation with the Talpurs’ servant and it led to a quarrel between him and the accused persons. The victim’s mother tried to pacify the situation and directed her son to tender an apology to the accused persons.

The victim did what his mother asked him to do, but the accused persons did not accept the apology saying that they would be satisfied only if accused Lashari, who was employed as a cook by the Talpurs only two days before the incident, was allowed to slap the victim.

The victim’s mother directed her son to leave the place and immediately after his departure accused Jatoi took out his pistol and threatened that he would kill Shahzeb. Then the four accused also departed and the victims’ parents went to the apartment of the two accused Talpurs’ father, Nawab Imdad Ali Taplur, to calm the situation. However, the accused persons intercepted the victim at Khayaban-i-Bahria and shot him dead.

Two friends of the victim, Muhammad Shah and Muhammad Ahmed Zuberi, who had also chased the accused persons, witnessed the incident and deposed in court accordingly.

The two friends stated in court that Shahzeb rolled over and rested on a side after he was fired upon and later accused Nawab Sajjad Ali Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari went to the victim’s car and asked accused Jatoi to kill the victim as he was still alive. Jatoi fired more bullets at the victim.

SSP Rao’s apology accepted

Meanwhile, another division bench accepted the unconditional apology of SSP Rao Anwar Ahmed for not turning up in court in a missing persons’ case despite the court’s order.

The bench was hearing the constitutional petition regarding the missing of Sharif Ahmed, allegedly kidnapped in the Sachal Goth area on Sept 20, 2014 by policemen who demanded Rs500,000 for his release.

The family of the missing man submitted that a kidnapping case regarding the disappearance of Sharif was also registered, but no headway had been made in that connection.

The bench, headed by Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, expressed displeasure over the absence of SSP Rao, who was ordered to be present in court with his report.

The bench put off the matter for a while and ordered the SSP to appear in court.

Later, Rao Anwar appeared in court to tell the judges that he could not come to court as there were threats to his life.

Justice Khan observed that there were serious threats to the lives of judges, but they didn’t stop coming to courts. “It is part of your duty to appear in court as and when summoned by it”, he snapped and directed the police officer to submit his report on the next date of hearing.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2016