ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court acquitted on Monday yet another death-row convict after a decade of imprisonment on the grounds that his accomplices were set free by lower courts on the basis of the same evidence which was used against him.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had taken up two appeals — one by Mohammad Aamir against the capital punishment and the other by Asif Javed against acquittal of Zubair Hussain by the Lahore High Court.

The Supreme Court ordered immediate acquittal of Aamir and regretted that if the one set of accused had been released on the basis of the same evidence then an independent corroborative proof was needed to convict the other accused. Otherwise, it observed, the same benefit should also be granted to the accused. Aamir has spent almost 10 years in Rawalpindi’s Adiyala jail.

On Dec 2, the same bench had ordered release of one Mohammad Anar after 11 years for want of solid prosecution and owing to contradictory evidence against him.

On Nov 25, the apex court had acquitted death-row convict Mazhar Farooq after 24 years of imprisonment by granting him the benefit of the doubt.

On April 24, 2008, Additional District and Sessions Judge of Jhelum Raja Ghanzanfar Ali Khan had sentenced Mohammad Aamir and Zubair Hussain to death, but acquitted their accomplices Haji Muzaffar, Mohammad Younus and Mohammad Arshad.

The FIR registered at the Chotala police station in Jhelum on May 2, 2005, stated that the accused had killed Mohammad Aslam and injured Ali Sher, Riaz and Azam in Toor village of Jhelum district.

The high court had upheld the death sentence awarded to Aamir, but ordered release of Zubair Hussain on June 9, 2011.

The Supreme Court acquitted Aamir on the grounds that the witnesses were relatives of the accused and had a family feud with him. No independent witnesses were available against the accused, it observed.

Advocate Mohammad Akram Gondal, representing Aamir, informed the court that the incident took place at 7.30pm, but FIR had been registered at 11.45pm, though the police station was only two-and-a-half kilometres away from the crime scene.

This showed that the FIR had been lodged after due deliberation and consultation to include the names of the accused, which had vitiated the entire case, the counsel argued.

Moreover, he said, the accused had fired gunshots in self-defence and the empties had been recovered and sent to laboratories for forensic analysis by police after a delay of one day.

After finding loopholes in the case, the apex court acquitted Aamir of all charges.

Deputy Prosecutor General for Punjab Mohammad Abdul Wadood represented the state in the case.

Published in Dawn December 6th, 2016

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