KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday acquitted 15 men in a 1983 case pertaining to the killing of seven persons in a clash between two rival groups over the custodianship of the Luari Sharif shrine in Badin.
A single-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Omar Sial remarked that the case unfortunately took 39 years to get to this position as 17 years were spent in the trial and around 22 years passed in adjudication of the appeal.
Initially, 32 persons were named as accused for allegedly killing seven men and wounding three others in January 1983. Of the 32, 11 died before or during the trial. The trial court had convicted 17 and acquitted two accused persons in 1999 and most of them were sentenced to life in prison. Two of them passed away after the conviction.
The bench in its judgement noted that the record of the case was voluminous and cumbersome while unnecessarily long and repetitive cross-examinations coupled with scattered and incomplete paperwork compounded difficulties even more.
It observed that the police had conducted a very one-sided investigation in the case as the defence plea was neither taken into consideration by the investigating officer nor by the trial court.
The record reflects that one of the appellants was injured in the bloody brawl, but that finding was suppressed during investigation, it added.
The bench further noted that the quarrel, though said to be over succession of the shrine, appeared to be primarily motivated by the possession of the land of dargah and both groups were at fault.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the complainant party has tried to involve as many persons of their rival group in this incident. The impact however, of such a large scale implication has been that the veracity of the entire prosecution case becomes doubtful, at least to the extent of the appellants,” Justice Sial wrote in the judgement.
It further observed that the supposed eyewitnesses of the case would require superhuman qualities to precisely identify the presence of 32 accused persons at the crime scene, weapons they were armed with, who had fired upon who and which parts of the bodies sustained injuries.
The bench said that it simply did not believe that each witness could get this right in the middle of a full-scale brawl between two groups in which weapons were being used freely.
It stated that besides some procedural errors in the identification parades, as per the memo the complainant had identified the accused persons about their presence at the scene of crime, but did not assign any role to them.
It appreciated the lawyers particularly Mehmood Qureshi, who was representing the appellants, for laboriously collating the record so that some scene could be made of the evidence that was led in this case.
According to the prosecution, a bloody fight broke out between two groups over the dispute of the custodianship of the Luari Sharif shrine after the death of Pir Gul Hassan.
The accused party had supported one Pir Faiz Mohammad as the new custodian of the shrine, while the complainant side declined to accept him as predecessor, it concluded.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2022