KARACHI: Seven builders, contractors and an engineer were acquitted following an out-of-court compromise made between parties in a case pertaining to the death of six labourers who fell after a construction lift buckled in Clifton, it emerged on Wednesday.

The labourers had died after falling from an under-construction 23-storey building in Block 7 of Clifton on March 9, 2019. They were reportedly fixing glasses on the upper floors of the high-rise when the lift buckled.

Four builders — Mohammad Amin Patel of M/s Land Mark Enterprises, his partners in the under-construction project Abdul Aziz Memon, Mohammad Munir Memon and Ameer Ali — two contractors Irfan-ur-Rehman and Moosa Iqbal and engineer Khalil Ahmed were booked in the case registered under Sections 322 (manslaughter) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Boat Basin police station.

Additional District and Sessions Judge (South) Ghulam Murtaza Baloch, heard arguments from the state prosecutor and counsel representing the suspects and the legal heirs of the victims and passed the order on the compromise applications moved by the parties.

A court is told that victims’ heirs forgave builder, his three partners and others in an out-of-court settlement

The court order said: “Accused Ameen Muhammad Kajani, Moosa Iqbal, Irfan Rehman, Abdul Aziz, Ameer Ali, Muhammad Muneer Memon and Khalil Ahmed are present on bail.

“Arguments heard. Order passed and announced in open court. All accused persons are acquitted under 345(6) Cr.P.C from this case. All accused person are present on bail, their bail bond stands cancelled and surety discharged. Case disposed off accordingly,” it added.

In July 2019, the court was informed that the suspects and the legal heirs of the victims were going to enter into an out-of-court compromise.

Advocate Shujaat Ali Khan had moved an application on behalf of the victims’ heirs, under Section 345(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, mentioning that they had pardoned the suspects without any fear or pressure in the name of the Almighty and had no objection if the suspects were discharged in the present case.

Talking to Dawn, Advocate Khan confirmed that the court had allowed the compromise between the parties and the seven nominated suspects had been acquitted in the case.

The defence counsel had also filed applications under Section 345(6) of the CrPC, mentioning that their clients had reached an out-of-court settlement with the legal heirs of the deceased labourers and they had no objection if they were discharged in the present case.

Both the counsel had pleaded to the court to accept the compromise between the parties as it was permissible under the law.

Subsequently, on the directives of the court, the investigating officer had filed a police report regarding the deceased persons and their legal heirs.

The court was informed that a notice to the public at large was also published in a newspaper on Dec 13, 2019 in compliance with the court’s directive to invite objection from the public, if any, to such a compromise between the parties.

Finally, the judge had personally summoned the victims’ legal heirs and the suspects to verify the purported out-of-the-court compromise reached between them in the matter.

“The court accepted the compromise, as permissible under the law, and all the suspects have been acquitted in the case,” state prosecutor Siraj Memon also confirmed to Dawn.

In May 2019, IO Sohail Akhtar Salahri had filed an investigation report, charge-sheeting the builder and both the contractors for their trial under Sections 322 (manslaughter) and 34 (common intention) of the PPC.

However, the IO did not name the engineer and also placed the builder’s three partners in column No 2 in blue ink, meaning that they may be tried if sufficient evidence was found against them.

But, state prosecutor Dewan Bhuromal in his scrutiny note of the charge sheet, pointed out that the IO had let off the project partners as well as licensed professionals, including the engineer of the under-construction project, in the case.

He concluded that in the light of evidence/reports available on record, all the charge-sheeted suspects and others, who were let off by the IO, had committed “serious negligence”.

According to the prosecutor, a report on the subject project, provided by the Sindh Building Control Authority, had revealed that as per condition no 4 of the structure no-objection certificate, the structural engineer was also responsible to depute full-time engineers at the construction site to instruct the deputies and contractors always in writing.

“As the six men lost their lives, all the suspects were liable to face charges under Sections 322, 287 (negligent conduct with respect to machinery) and 34 (common intention) of the PPC,” the prosecutor had recommended.

A judicial magistrate had ruled that the charge sheet filed by the IO was not binding upon the courts and the court could refuse to take cognizance on a ‘positive’ report.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2020