The Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted the appeal of Khadija Siddiqui ─ a law student who was stabbed 23 times in Lahore in 2016 ─ and overturned the Lahore High Court's 2018 acquittal of Shah Hussain, ordering his immediate arrest.
Siddiqui had accused Shah Hussain of attacking her on May 3, 2016, near Lahore's Shimla Hill where she, along with her driver, had gone to pick up her younger sister from school.
A three-member bench of the SC headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, after hearing arguments from both sides on Wednesday, accepted Siddiqui's appeal to overturn the acquittal and declared the LHC's verdict null and void.
On the court's orders, Shah Hussain was taken into custody from outside the courtroom.
"Today is a victory for all women," said Siddiqui while speaking outside the court after her appeal was accepted. "Today for every woman, a precedent has been set that by raising your voice you will be victorious in the battle against truth. The truth can never be hidden, it always comes to light. And today's decision has proven that if you misuse your power, you will reap what you sow as has happened today."
Responding to a question, Siddiqui said that cases must be defended on the basis of their merits, not on the basis of scandal or character assassination.
Barrister Salman Safdar, a member of Siddiqui's legal team, told the media that Shah Hussain had also been given a chance to address the bench today "because he is a lawyer in the making". The lawyer also praised the court for providing "much deserved justice" in the case.
Barrister Hassaan Niazi alleged that Siddiqui and her legal team had faced pressure at different stages, including at the trial court, the sessions court and the high court.
Earlier, as the hearing commenced, Justice Khosa asked if Hussain was in court and was told that he was.
"We want to see if the high court's conclusion is based on the evidence presented," Justice Khosa said.
"The high court did not take a look at the complete case evidence presented to it," Siddiqui's lawyer argued.
"Khadija [Siddiqui] was Hussain's class fellow. The defendant stabbed her 23 times, including two swipes at her neck. According to doctors, her wounds were bleeding when she was brought to the hospital," the lawyer said, adding Siddiqui's sister was also presented in court as a witness of the incident.
SC questions delay in naming Hussain
The CJP questioned the delay in naming Hussain as the stabber. "Siddiqui knew the defendant, he was her classmate, and yet she named Hussain five days after the incident," the chief justice pointed out.
"She was not in her senses [at the time of the attack]; she did not recognise the doctor," the lawyer replied, later adding that doctors had termed Siddiqui's condition critical.
The lawyer told the bench that Shah Hussain attacked Siddiqui with a knife "with intention" and that he did not attack her driver.
"Siddiqui's sister was in her senses; why was Hussain then named in the case after a delay?" asked the CJP.
When the chief justice asked about the wounds inflicted upon Siddiqui, the lawyer said "12 of the wounds were two-inches-deep".
"The front of her neck was not wounded; she could have spoken on the matter," the top judge noted.
The Punjab government's prosecutor also opposed the LHC's decision to acquit Hussain.
"They were both law students and both decided to practically study the law," Justice Khosa commented.
"Two hair [samples] were found in the car; were they sent for forensic testing?" the chief justice asked. Siddiqui's lawyer said while directions were given to send the hair for forensic testing, representatives of the lab, when asked, said that the samples never reached them.
"The word 'high-profile' was used in the case multiple times; should the law be changed for high-profile [offenders]?" the chief justice asked.
He added: "A crime is a crime, be it high or low profile."
"The high court did not correctly examine the evidence," Siddiqui's lawyer reiterated.
"Why did the defendant want to kill Khadija [Siddiqui]? He could have attacked her where there was no one [to see him]," Justice Khosa said.
"The record does not mention any motive behind the attempted murder," Siddiqui's lawyer said.
"To shoot someone is easier than stabbing. Usually, the motive behind killing is 'if [she is not] mine then [she] won't be anyone else's'," the chief justice remarked, adding that the other common motive for murder is blackmailing on the girl's part.
"Neither of these reasons came to light in this case," he added.
Justice Maqbool Baqar pointed out that no class fellow of Siddiqui and Hussain had testified in the case.
"The real question is who attacked Siddiqui," Justice Khosa observed.
"The relationship between Siddiqui and Hussain ended seven months prior to the incident; they both continued to study in the same class after the relationship ended," Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said.
Following a brief break in the hearing, the court accepted her appeal and declared LHC's decision null and void.
Subsequently, Hussain was taken into custody from the courtroom.
Siddiqui, who is currently studying law in the United Kingdom, arrived in Pakistan earlier this week.
A judicial magistrate had on July 29, 2017, sentenced Hussain to seven-year imprisonment under Section 324 (attempted murder) of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), two years under Section 337A(i) (causing injuries), five years under Section 337A(ii), one year under Section 337F(i), three years under Section 337F(ii) and five years under Section 337F(iv).
However, a sessions court in March 2018 had commuted the rigorous imprisonment by two years awarded by the trial court to Hussain while setting aside the other minor penalties.
Hussain, the son of a senior LHC lawyer, then appealed against his conviction in the high court and was acquitted in June 2018. LHC Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem in his detailed verdict had written: "The injured witness ordinarily is not disbelieved but the circumstances of this case forced me to disbelieve the injured prosecution witness."
"I am satisfied that the prosecution has failed in its duty to prove the guilt of the appellant (Hussain) beyond reasonable shadow of doubt and the benefit of the doubt is always extended in favour of the accused."
The judge observed that marks of injury on a witness are only an indication of his presence at a spot but not affirmative proof of credibility and truthfulness: "It is not a universal rule that each and every word coming from the mouth of injured person is truth."
"Mere presence of injuries would not stamp that he is a truthful witness. His testimony is to be tested and appraised on the principles applied for appreciation of any other prosecution witness," Justice Naeem had ruled.
The then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar had taken notice of Hussain's acquittal and forwarded the case to a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, the new chief justice, for hearing. The appeal was accepted by the court a few days later.