Islamabad-Justice is a notion so pure that it is autonomous to the idiosyncrasies of emotions, affections and aspirations. The only object of a court of law should be that justice be done impartially without fear, favour or ill will. Recently, the state of affairs of our judicial system came under strict scrutiny and criticism by almost all walks of life because of decision rendered by an honourable judge of the Lahore High Court in the well-known Khadija Siddiqi stabbing case. The honourable judge while hearing revision petition of the accused against the judgment of the learned sessions judge came to the conclusion that in the peculiar circumstances of the case, it is unsafe to maintain conviction and thus he set aside the sentence and conviction recorded by the courts below.

Immediately, after the pronouncement of the judgment, the honourable judge faced criticism and condemnation on his order. Public outcry was so wide and unrestrained that the honourable chief justice of Pakistan took a suo motu in the matter, disregarding the time-tested provisions of appeal against acquittal provided in our criminal procedure code.

A brief outlook at the judgment rendered by the honourable judge of the Lahore High Court is necessary in reaching the conclusion as to why he was inclined to allow the revision petition of the accused when he himself might be aware of public reaction that would follow his decision due to all the social and traditional media campaign being run in support of the victim. The honourable judge in his 12-page judgment first confronts the prosecution, whose sole job was bringing home the charges against the accused without a shadow of doubt. The fact that they failed to produce the bloodstained clothes which the victim was wearing at the time of the accident was the first misadventure. Even in gruesome and heinous murder cases, prosecution is supposed to collect and preserve bloodstained soil and clothes to demonstrate that the occurrence unfolded precisely as they claim it to be. One of the most fatal blows to Khadija Siddiqui’s case was the fact that the prosecution failed to secure bloodstained clothes of the victim.

Secondly, comes to the question of identification. The case of the prosecution was that the accused and the victim were class fellows thus, a presumption arises that they both knew and recognised each other and in this backdrop, when the accused was not nominated in the FIR and his name only surfaced in the prosecution case through a supplementary statement, which according to law cannot be read as an extension of the FIR, cast serious doubts about the veracity of the prosecution’s case. The existence of criminal jurisprudence lies on the foundation that benefit of all and any reasonable doubt must be extended to the defence and that is what the learned judge did.

The honourable judge further in his judgment comments that the case of the prosecution was that the victim suffered 23 injuries; a claim which the prosecution stood by till the very end. However, such claim could not find any support through the medical evidence which was tendered by the prosecution itself. In the medical examination, it was recorded that the victim suffered 11 injuries. Hence, the case of the prosecution was falsified by their own evidence which once again casts grave doubt on the prosecution case. The judgment further emphasizes that according to the prosecution, after the attack, the victim was taken to the hospital in her own car but yet again prosecution failed to bring on record any bloodstained items of the car like foot mats or seat covers which were necessary to collaborate the stance taken by the prosecution because mere statements means nothing in the eyes of the law unless they are supported by tangible evidence which in this case was missing.

The final blow to the prosecution case was the fact that the alleged dragger that, according to the prosecution, was used in the offence was recovered after a delay of five months by the police and that too from a public place thus, the prosecution failed to establish a link between the weapon and the accused. Furthermore, the dagger was also free from any blood and thus, it could not be said with complete confidence that it was the weapon that was used in the crime.

After considering all these factors which break down the prosecution’s case brick by brick, the honourable judge came to the conclusion that in the peculiar circumstances of the case it would be unsafe to maintain sentence and conviction. It is also pertinent to note that honourable judge of the Lahore High Court while adjudicating the case was exercising his revisional jurisdiction to determine the validity and legality of the orders passed by learned judicial officers subordinate to him and he had the jurisdiction to set-aside their finding which he did and did so very rightly.

While adjudicating upon the case, the honourable judge holds fast to the ancient Latin maxim Fiat justita ruat caelum which means “Let justice be done though the heaven fall”. He was well aware of the consequences that would follow after his decision but what he did was in complete consonance with well established legal principles. To say that a permanent judge of the High Court who has constitutional protection of tenure bent to some external pressure while hearing an ordinary criminal revision is absurd to the core.

–The writer is a Barrister who practices criminal law.

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