ISLAMABAD: A UK-based non-governmental organisation in a report submitted to the minister for law and justice has disclosed that the Supreme Court over the last few years has overturned the death penalty in 78 per cent cases.
Timothy Moloney, a criminal law barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, and NGO Reprieve’s director Maya Foa met Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem on Friday and presented the report. Shahzad Akbar, Special Assistance to the Prime Minister on Accountability, was also present during the meeting.
The report revealed that 78pc of the death penalty cases out of the 310 reported capital judgements between 2010 and 2018 had been overturned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitting, commuting the sentence, or ordering a review.
The study revealed that the Supreme Court frequently cited unreliable witness testimonies, involuntary or retracted confessions, insufficient or manipulated evidence and lack of motive of the accused as the primary reasons for overturning death sentences.
Additionally, the Supreme Court, while exercising its capital jurisdiction, had raised serious doubts about the reliability of police investigation, particularly where there was an unexplained delay in the registration of the First Information Report (FIR) and where the evidence appeared to be planted, manipulated or otherwise doubtful.
Apex court cites unreliable testimonies, involuntary confessions, manipulated evidence and lack of motive as reasons for overturning these sentences
The apex court had upheld death sentences for lethal offences only, and every judgement of a non-lethal offence ended with the Supreme Court overturning the conviction or commuting the death sentence. Despite this, lower courts continued to regularly impose death sentences for non-lethal offences, it added.
The Supreme Court had now recognised a growing number of mitigating factors which counsel against a death sentence. These included the type and gravity of the offence, lesser participation by the accused, lack of premeditation, provocation, social and familial circumstances, partial compromise with the victim’s family, age of the accused, whether the accused was acting under the influence of an elder, mental state of the accused, capacity for reform and time spent on death row.
The apex court had recognised that even a “single mitigating instance, available in a particular case, would be sufficient to put on guard the judge not to award the penalty of death but life imprisonment”.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019