SHC issues notices to Sindh prosecutor general over Baldia factory fire convictions

Updated 13 Oct 2020

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Headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, the two-judge bench observed that the appeal against conviction was statutory right of the appellants and the appeals were filed within the stipulated period in the present case. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File
Headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, the two-judge bench observed that the appeal against conviction was statutory right of the appellants and the appeals were filed within the stipulated period in the present case. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday issued notices to the Sindh prosecutor general and complainant on appeals of two former workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and three others against their conviction in the Baldia factory arson case.

Former MQM sector in-charge Abdul Rehman aka Bhola and Zubair aka Chariya, who have been sentenced to death by an antiterrorism court (ATC) last month, and three watchmen of the ill-fated indusial unit Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Mohammad Ali, who got life term, have challenged the trial court order before the SHC through their lawyers.

Headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, the two-judge bench observed that the appeal against conviction was statutory right of the appellants and the appeals were filed within the stipulated period in the present case.

While admitting the appeals for regular hearing, the bench issued notices to the prosecutor general and complainant.

The bench also called the record and proceedings of the case from the trial court and directed the lawyers for the appellants to prepare a paper book prior to the next date of hearing. The bench also asked its office to fix those appeals for hearing after four months.

On Sept 22, the ATC sentenced Rehman and Zubair to death and awarded life term to four watchmen of the factory while it exonerated four others, including then-provincial minister for commerce and industries Rauf Siddiqui, for lack of evidence.

Lawyers Mohammad Mansoor and Tamaz Khan for the two former MQM men argued that the judgement was passed without application of judicial mind and without observing the principles laid down by the apex court. The trial court also could not appreciate the material contradictions of the prosecution evidence, they added.

They alleged that people died due to the negligence of factory owners and the departments concerned since there was no emergency exit point in the industrial unit. They maintained that no evidence was produced before the trial court about the allegation of extortion.

The counsel also argued that the prosecution had failed to examine the warehouse in-charge and produce any CCTV footage to prove its case, but the trial court remained unable to consider that aspect of the case, which made the case highly doubtful.

They also contended that the trial court also failed to consider that the factory owners had not submitted any application against anybody even after leaving Pakistan and pleaded to set aside the death penalty.

Lawyer Farooq Hayat for the three gatekeepers argued that his clients were convicted on the basis of presumption and every benefit of doubt in the present case was given to the prosecution side instead of the accused party, which was a violation of article 10-A of the Constitution.

He further contended that no evidence was brought on record to establish that there was any mens rea (criminal intent) on the part of those appellants.

The counsel asserted that his clients were convicted on the charges of abetment and common intention, but the requirements of common intention was necessary either to have direct proof or prior concert to constitute common intention. There was no evidence available on record that the appellants were involved in commission of the offence of common intention and abetment, he maintained.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2020