ISLAMABAD - Khadija Siddiqui, who was stabbed by the son of a senior lawyer, on Saturday filed an appeal in the Supreme Court requesting it to set aside the Lahore High Court’s June 4 judgment, acquitting the main accused, Shah Hussain, of all charges on the basis of benefit of doubt. 

The victim, who survived around 23 stabs miraculously, was a law student when she was attacked at her institute.

Legal experts believe that it was another test case for the Supreme Court to adjudicate the matter. 

Barrister Salman Safdar, counsel for Khadija, filed the appeal making Shah Hussain and state as respondents contended that the LHC did not consider the overwhelming evidence through which the guilt of Hussain was established beyond the shadow of any doubt. 

Pakistan Bar Council’s (PBC’s) Executive Member and Council’s former Chairman Human Rights Committee Advocate Raheel Kamran Sheikh believes that Khadija’s case was one of those cases wherein the criminal justice system of the country was on trial.

“All eyes are focused on the Supreme Court hoping that it will ensure not only that justice is done but it is also seen to be done,” Advocate Raheel told The Nation. 

“Generally speaking, I am extremely disturbed over the fact that in this 21st century, this state continues to adhere to an archaic system of investigating crimes, which is largely dependent on human agency, discretionary powers and absence of accountability for those charged with the investigation,” said Advocate Raheel.

“In Pakistan, unless and until the criminal investigation system is revamped and reorganized on a modern scientific basis and dependence on the elements of human agency are curtailed, and the prosecution department is restructured on a performance basis, there is no escape from unwarranted acquittals and miscarriages of justice,” he added.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has already taken notice of the matter and sought a record of the case and fixed the matter for hearing on Sunday (today) at the Lahore Registry.

However, regarding resolution moved by the accused Hussain’s father and unanimously passed by the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) to regulate the exercise of suo motu powers, Advocate Raheel said that to the extent it was in line with the PBC’s resolution unanimously adopted on April 21, wherein it was resolved that the exercise of jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution should be regulated through appropriate amendments to the Supreme Court Rules, 1980.

“The verdict of acquittal is indeed “shocking” as the case of the petitioner (Khadija) is unique and exceptional in the sense that it comprises natural, truthful, honest and straightforward evidence, all of which linked the Respondent (Hussain) with the commission of the offence,” the appeal contended.

It contended that “the verdict had been penned down in sheer disregard of the recent judicial pronouncements where violence against women had been condemned in the strictest words”.  

The appeal stated that “the decision resulted in grave miscarriage of justice as the brutal and merciless attack was carried out in broad daylight”.

The appeal stated that “repeated stab wounds on the vital parts such as neck, chest, face and ear were individually and collectively life-threatening, clearly expressing the intention of the Hussain to kill the victim”. 

Khadija in her appeal regretted, “Instead of awarding punishment which was commensurate and proportionate to the brutality caused, the learned judge of the Lahore High Court has given a clean chit to a dangerous and desperate criminal who is on the loose just 10 months after his incarceration.”

“It is worth highlighting that the trial court placed reliance on all pieces of evidence produced during the course of the trial and had also believed all 12 prosecution witnesses. The finding of guilt was based on sound legal principles which required no interference.” 

It further stated that “the LHC’s judge paid no heed to the FIR which was not only very prompt but also a natural and straightforward draft which was free from external input and exaggeration”. 

“The fact that no one was initially nominated in the FIR is the best indicator that no advantage was taken and no one was falsely implicated till tangible, concrete and connecting evidence surfaced during the course of the investigation.”  The judge only erroneously appreciated the point of non-mentioning of Hussain’s name in the FIR, the appeal contended.

“Not a single witness was held back, all three witnesses appeared in the court and subjected themselves to extensive cross-examination. All three witnesses successfully withstood the test of lengthy, searching and quite unfortunately highly objectionable cross-examination containing indecent and scandalous questions. It is indeed shocking that the Learned Judge could not form proper assessment or appreciation of the convincing and fully reliable ocular account of the case.” 

The LHC in its judgment had observed, “That ordinarily injured witnesses are not disbelieved but since the star witness Khadija Siddiqui has not described the true/complete tale of the occurrence might have taken place but not in the manner as described by the eye/injured witnesses. Therefore, evidence of the injured witnesses could not be relied upon with any amount of confidence.”

“It may not be out of place to mention that the above-mentioned findings are erroneous and result from misreading or non-reading of the convincing and truthful testimony of star witness Khadija Siddiqui who appeared as P.W 6,” the victim’s appeal contended. 

“The acquittal of the respondent (accused) has indeed resulted from misreading and non-reading of evidence as in paragraph 17 of the judgment it has been observed that “No independent witness was cited by the prosecution,” the appeal stated.

“The evidentiary value of one of the most important witnesses has not been discussed at all by the learned judge of the high court. The star witness of the ocular account, namely Sophia Siddiqui (aged 6), a student of Convent School appeared in the case as a ‘child witness’. The evidence of Sophia Siddiqui (PW 7) is simple, innocent and straightforward – she gave intelligible testimony as required under Article 3 of Qanun-e-Shahadat Order, 1984,” the appeal said.

“Her evidence is free from coaching and tutoring and she straightaway pinpointed towards the respondent as the culprit in the court. The child witness was not only the eyewitness but also an injured witness of the occurrence.” 

The appeal stated that Sofia’s blood-stained ‘school uniform’ was also taken into possession by the police and the doctor duly issued the medical-legal certificate confirming her injured status. 

“It is indeed alarming and shocking that the evidence of the injured child witness does not find even a mention in the judgment passed by the learned Lahore High Court.”

“Injured Khadija Siddiqui in her statement under 161 CrPC and subsequently while appearing in court as PW 5 quite unambiguously stated that the Respondent being her class fellow at law school continuously “teased” and “harassed” her, the appeal stated. 

“The cross-examination during which innumerable, highly objectionable, scandalous questions were asked confirmed ‘mens rea’ on part of the respondent (Shah Hussain). 

“The learned high court, therefore, has quite surprisingly arrived at the conclusion that “The motive set up by the prosecution comes to the ground” (in paragraph 15 of the judgment). It is quite unfortunate that the respondent (accused) has been acquitted in a case which has a ring of truth attached to it and where both heads of the crime namely ‘actus reus’ and ‘mens rea’ were satisfactorily proved by the prosecution.” 

“Moreover, two concurrent findings of guilt by the courts below attached genuineness and sanctity to the finding of guilt of the Respondent. Moreover, the conviction resulted from a very fair and transparent trial during which lengthy cross-examination to the heart’s content by the counsels of the respondent (Hussain) was carried out during which nothing favourable was achieved except harassing the witnesses.”