KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday set aside the life imprisonment handed down to a man by the trial court in a murder case.
Aqil Bashir was sentenced to life in prison by a sessions court in October last year for killing Shabbir alias Shabana, said to be a transgender person, in April 2019 within the remit of the Ferozabad police station.
The convict, through his counsel, filed an appeal against the trial court order and after hearing both sides and examining the record and proceedings of the case, a single-judge bench headed by Justice Omar Sial allowed the appeal and exonerated the appellant.
The bench in its judgement said that as per prosecution, Shabbir was a transgender and said to have been married to the appellant whereas simultaneously it seemed that the appellant had been married to Sobia and had five children from her.
It further noted that the case of the prosecution was mainly based on the evidence of two last-seen witnesses and recovery of the crime weapon, adding that both witnesses claimed to have seen the appellant along with the victim before the incident.
One of such witnesses’ suspicion was based solely on identifying a voice of a person who he had not seen or met for two years and perhaps had never met or seen in his entire life and no credence can be given to the utterances of such a witness while other was also appeared to be a stock witness produced by the investigating officer to support the prosecution case, it added.
The bench further noted that both the alleged last seen witnesses had belatedly recorded police statement; although the apex court had held in a number of cases that belated recording of such a statement without a plausible reason for delay reduced their value to zero.
It also observed that the recovery of the crime weapon was also shrouded in mystery and appeared to have been foisted upon the appellant as one of the prosecution witnesses, who was the first person to discover the body and categorically confirmed that no dagger or knife was lying next to the dead body, was a police officer.
The verdict noted that the call data record did not reveal any contact between the appellant and his alleged wife/victim, as claimed by the prosecution, and it was unnatural and strange as it would be reasonably expected that husband and wife would indeed speak to each other on the phone.
“The complete absence of any proof to the contrary casts suspicion on the entire prosecution story of Aqil and Shabana being married and living together for two years,” it added.
“I am unable to concur that Aqil was married to Shabana as has been claimed by the prosecution to justify his presence in Shabana’s flat on the day of the incident,” the judge said.
The bench further observed that there was ample evidence on record to show that Shabana was actually a male and was named Shabbir and his identity card and medical report revealed the same while it also came on record that Sobia had contracted free-will marriage with Aqil.
The appellant in his defence plea before the trial court had said that he had been falsely implicated as a Rangers official was a friend of his father-in-law, who was not happy with the appellant as his daughter had eloped with him.
The bench noted that the defence version sounded more credible than the prosecution version as some officials of the Rangers did appear to have taken an interest in the case and news published in the mainstream media soon after the arrest of the appellant also supported the version he gave in defence.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2023
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