LHC misread evidence in Khadija case, notes SC

Updated January 30, 2019

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Khadija Siddiqui was stabbed 23 times by fellow student Shah Hussain on May 3, 2016. — File photo
Khadija Siddiqui was stabbed 23 times by fellow student Shah Hussain on May 3, 2016. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday regretted that the Lahore High Court (LHC) while deciding the case of Khadija Siddiqui — a survivor who was stabbed 23 times by a fellow student — had failed to demonstrate the requisite care in examining the case record, which resulted in a glaring misreading of the record.

“We expect the high court to do better in this regard in future,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa cautioned in a detailed judgement he has authored.

On Jan 23, a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by the chief justice while accepting the plea of Khadija Siddiqui had ordered police to arrest her tormentor Shah Hussain and send him straight to prison from the courtroom.

Ms Siddiqui was stabbed 23 times by Shah Hussain on May 3, 2016, near Lahore’s Shimla Hill where she, with her driver, had gone to pick up her younger sister from school. Now Ms Siddiqui is doing Bar-at-Law at the City Law School of the City University London. Shah Hussain is in final year of law.

High court was supposed to hear review petition, not appeal, says apex court’s detailed judgement

In the detailed judgement, which was issued on Tuesday, the chief justice highlighted the downright misreading of the evidence committed by the LHC by ignoring many critical aspects of the case available in the evidence.

“The exercise of appreciation of evidence in this case by the high court has, thus, been found by us to be laconic and misreading and non-reading of the record which led LHC to a serious error of judgement occasioning failure of justice and clamouring for interference in the matter by the Supreme Court.

“A judgement of acquittal suffering from serious misreading or non-reading of the evidence materially affecting the final outcome of the case is nothing short of being perverse and, hence, not immune from interference,” the verdict said.

Apart from that the high court should have appreciated that it was only seized of revision petitions and not an appeal and in exercise of its revisional jurisdiction, the high court ought to have confined itself to correctness, legality, regularity or propriety of the proceedings of the courts below rather than embarking upon a full-fledged reappraisal of the evidence, an exercise fit for appellate jurisdiction only, the judgement said.

In the case, the trial and appellate courts had undertaken an exhaustive analysis of the evidence available on the record and had then concurred in their conclusion regarding guilt of respondent (Shah Hussain), having been proved beyond reasonable doubt, the judgement said.

In the absence of any error of law or illegality, irregularity or impropriety committed by the courts below in the trial or hearing of the appeal, the high court should have been slow in interfering with the concurrent findings of facts recorded by the courts below, the verdict said.

“For what has been discussed above these appeals are allowed, the impugned consolidated judgement passed by the high court is set aside and the judgement passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Lahore on March 30, 2018 convicting and sentencing Shah Hussain for various offences is restored,” the Supreme Court judgement concluded.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2019