• SHC also acquits six officials of ACLC
• Rules incident didn’t fall within ATA purview
• Declares CCTV footage admissible evidence
• Says SSP Haider had issues with slain student

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Friday set aside the life term handed down by an antiterrorism court to six police officials of the Anti-Car-Lifting Cell (ACLC) on charges of killing teenage student Intizar Ahmed in a shootout in DHA.

The high court also commuted the death sentence of two other policemen to life term.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha observed that the case did not fall within the purview of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 as police only to stop the car of the victim and had no object or intent to create terror.

An ATC had sentenced to death police constables Bilal Rasheed and Mohammad Daniyal, who were then posted as the gunman and driver of the then ACLC SSP Muqaddas Haider, and life term to then SHO Tariq Mehmood, inspectors Tariq Raheem and Azhar Ahsan, head constable Shahid Usman and constables Ghulam Abbas and Fawad Khan in October 2021.

They were found guilty of killing 19-year-old Intizar Ahmed in a shootout in DHA on the night of Jan 13, 2018.

All the convicts, through their counsel, filed appeals before the SHC, impugning the judgement of the trial court.

The division bench in its judgement stated that the prosecution had established its case against Bilal and Daniyal as they had fired upon the vehicle of the victim though they were not the part of the team carrying out a decoy operation against car snatchers.

It noted that the strongest piece of evidence against them was the CCTV footage that showed all the appellants were present at the crime scene and Bilal and Daniyal were firing at the victim’s car.

The lawyer for both the appellants asked the bench to exclude the evidence of the footage since the same was not subject to safe custody or forensic analysis, but the bench noted that the courts were more and more looking to relying upon science and technology.

The judgement also stated that the footage corroborated with other evidence of the prosecution. The witness who produced such footage had no reason to tamper with it and indeed no suggestion of tampering was made by the defence counsel when it was exhibited before the trial court, the bench remarked.

“As such we find this CCTV/DVR footage to be admissible in evidence and rely upon it,” the verdict said and added that the law could be held hostage to technicalities when the evidence was reliable.

The bench further observed that a key prosecution witness, Madiha Kiyani who was travelling with the victim at the time of the incident, had fully corroborated the case of the prosecution and footage without identifying any of the accused and her evidence also provided an explanation as to why the deceased sped away after he was stopped since he had contraband and number plates in the car.

It appeared that initially, police allowed the car to go since there was a man and women who were extremely unlikely to be car snatchers and the police party did not have any lady constable for search purposes, it added.

However, the bench said Bilal and Daniyal tried to stop the vehicle again despite the fact that they were not part of the checking party and opened fire instead of chasing the car, which was completely unjustified and illegal.

While referring to some statements of prosecution witnesses, the bench in its judgement said: “Perhaps they did the shooting to ingratiate themselves with their SSP who had issues with the deceased over a family relationship.”

However, it said the death sentence was converted into life term as it was unclear from the evidence that which of the two appellants had fired the fatal shot as three shots hit the vehicle and the victim sustained one bullet injury.

The prosecution had neither arrested anyone nor proved a motive as confirmed by the complainant of the case, it said.

The SHC did not consider the report of a joint investigation team (JIT) as no member of the JIT was produced as a witness and the appellants were not given the opportunity to cross-examine the authors of the report.

The judgement further said that all other appellants had admitted their presence at the crime scene in the defence plea and carrying out lawful duty while other two appellants had opened fire through an independent action, which was supported by the footage.

“Simply because the other appellants were present at the time of the incident does not lead to them automatically becoming liable for common intention or abetment with the appellants, Daniyal and Bilal, who individually and without their knowledge carried out the crime,” it concluded.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2022

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