Noor Mukadam murder: Court says plea on Zahir's mental state filed 'to get rid of criminal liability'
A sessions court in Islamabad issued a written order on Thursday, stating that the plea seeking the constitution of a medical board to determine the mental health of Zahir Jaffer — the primary accused in the Noor Mukadam murder case — was raised "just to get rid of criminal liability".
The court had dismissed the application, which was filed by Zahir's legal team on December 1, a day ago.
In its written order issued today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the court said that it was on December 1 that state counsel Advocate Sikandar Zulqarnain Saleem, who was representing Zahir, raised the objection pertaining to the mental state of the accused.
"No such objection had ever been raised earlier before the learned magistrates at [the] remand stage, as well as before this court," the order read, stating that objection was raised when "the trial is going to end very soon".
It said Zahir's parents — who have also been indicted in the case — had been appearing before the court but never moved any application pertaining to his mental health. His other family members, too, had been attending the case's hearings, the order said, adding: "For the sake of argument if the accused is assumed as mentally disordered, then the application should have been moved through next friend or mother or father."
The order further stated that the application was moved without providing the court Zahir's medical history.
It said the court had also "tentatively examined" Zahir on December 8 but observed no disability.
"Facts and attending circumstances reveal that the accused is not suffering from mental illness [and] such afterthought plea has been raised just to get rid of criminal liability," the order read.
It said the court found no reason to constitute the medical board, as requested by Zahir's counsel, and therefore, the application was dismissed.
The order said the public prosecutor, assisted by the complainant's counsel, Advocate Shah Khawar, had objected to the application, contending that it was not maintainable as it did not bear the signature of the accused.
They had also pointed out that no such plea pertaining to Zahir's mental state was raised by his counsel at an earlier stage of the case's proceedings.
They further argued that the accused was a famous person, running his family business. He also conducted counseling sessions in a branch of Beacon House School in Rawalpindi's Satellite Town, they submitted, adding: "He is mentally fit and cannot be presumed to be insane or mentally disordered."
According to the order, Advocate Saleem had said in the application for the constitution of the medical board that Zahir had "not responded to the charge as he was unable to understand the proceedings of the trial court".
"The accused, Zahir Jaffer, is a chronic patient [of a] mental disorder/ schizoaffective disorder due to drug psychosis and same was [his] position at the time of his arrest on July 20, 2021," the order stated, citing the application.
It further said that the counsel had contended that police and the relevant investigation agency had "failed [to] or willingly avoided disclosing the mental health condition of the accused to ... [the] court due to social/complainant's influence".
"Courts are presumed to be neutral ... but it is unfortunate that after observing the mental state of accused Zahir Zakir Jaffer, the trial court, instead of proceeding according to chapter XXXIV of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure), started the trial in the absence of the accused," the counsel said, adding that it was a violation of section 353 of the CrPC.
On these ground, he prayed the court for the constitution of a medical board to ascertain Zahir's mental health.
Noor, 27, was found murdered at a residence in the capital's upscale Sector F-7/4 on July 20. A first information report (FIR) was registered the same day against Zahir — who was arrested from the site of the murder — under Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on the complaint of the victim's father, Shaukat Ali Mukadam, who is a retired Pakistani diplomat.
After the FIR was registered in the murder case, Zahir's parents and household staff were arrested on July 24 over allegations of "hiding evidence and being complicit in the crime". They were made a part of the investigation based on Noor's father's statement.
In his complaint, Shaukat had stated that he had gone to Rawalpindi on July 19 to buy a goat for Eidul Azha, while his wife had gone out to pick up clothes from her tailor. When he had returned home in the evening, the couple found their daughter Noor absent from their house in Islamabad.
They had found her cellphone number switched off and started a search for her. Sometime later, Noor had called her parents to inform them that she was travelling to Lahore with some friends and would return in a day or two, according to the FIR.
The complainant said he had later received a call from Zahir, whose family were their acquaintances. The suspect had informed Shaukat that Noor was not with him, the FIR said.
At around 10pm on July 20, the victim's father had received a call from Kohsar police station, informing him that Noor had been murdered.
Police had subsequently taken the complainant to Zahir's house in Sector F-7/4 where he discovered that his "daughter has been brutally murdered with a sharp-edged weapon and beheaded", according to the FIR.
Shaukat, who identified his daughter's body, has sought the maximum punishment under the law against Zahir for allegedly murdering his daughter.
Police later said that Zahir had confessed to killing Noor while his DNA test and fingerprints also showed his involvement in the murder.
Six officials of Therapy Works, whose employees had visited the site of the murder before police, were also nominated in the case and were indicted with six others, including Zahir Jaffer's parents, in October.