MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Supreme Court has decided to club anappeal by an incarcerated cabinet member against his sentence by a Shariat appellate bench of the high court with a cross appeal by his opponents seeking enhancement of his sentence and conviction of the acquitted accused for a joint hearing early next month.

MalikZaffarIqbal, minister for higher education who had returned from LA-8, Kotl-1 in last year’s general elections on PTI ticket,was sentencedby the Shariat Appellate Bench in a nearly two decades old murder caseto 14 years rigorous imprisonment under section 302(c) of Azad Penal Code, another three years simple imprisonment undersection 13/20/65ofthe Arms Act and a fine of Rs1 million to be paid to the legal heirs of the deceasedafter holding thathis guilt was beyond any considerable or substantial shadow of doubt.

The bench had, however, acquitted all other suspects in the case.

Soon after the announcement of the judgment on August 3, the minister was arrested by a police team from the high court building andshifted to the district jail Kotli the same night.

The verdict was challenged by Mr Iqbal in an appeal filed at the apex court’s principal seat in Muzaffarabad. Along with the appeal, he had also moved an application for suspension of his sentence and grant of bail to him.

His application was to be taken up by the apex court on August 26 but hearing was adjourned twicedue to the unavailability of Chief Justice Raja Saeed Akram.

In the meanwhile, the legal heirs of the deceased had also filed a cross appeal in the apex court’s Mirpur circuit for enhancement of Mr Iqbal’s sentence on the one hand and conviction of the other persons who were acquitted by the Shariat Appellate Bench on the other.

On Sept 5, a division bench of the apex court, comprising acting Chief Justice Khawaja Mohammad Naseem and Justice Raza Ali Khan, heard arguments on Mr Iqbal’s application and reserved its decision.

On Wednesday, the bench announced that “it had deemed it appropriate to decide the main appeals [by both parties] on merit, instead of deciding the bail application, immediately after the end of court vacations.”

It directed the registrar to complete the appeals within three weeks and thereafter place the same before the court for final arguments on October 4, 2022.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2022

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