KARACHI - The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday ordered a retrial of the Shahzeb Khan murder case in a sessions court after revoking the punishments previously awarded to Shahrukh Jatoi and three others.

The SHC made the decision while hearing a criminal review application filed by Shahrukh Jatoi’s lawyer, Advocate Farooq H Naek, in August 2016. The application had sought a retrial of the case in a juvenile court.

In 2013, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) had awarded the death penalty to co-accused Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Talpur for Shahzeb’s murder. Siraj’s younger brother, Sajjad Ali Talpur, and his servant, Ghulam Murtaza Lashari, had been handed life sentences. A couple of months after the sentence, however, Shahzeb’s parents had issued a formal pardon to the convicts.

Shahrukh Jatoi’s counsel today argued that Shahzeb’s murder had been the result of a personal enmity and should not have been tried in an ATC.

Further, Naek contended that his client was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed and, therefore, he should not have been tried under anti-terrorism laws.

On these grounds, Naek asked the court to order a retrial of the case in a regular court.

The Sindh prosecutor general, countering the arguments, pointed out that the SHC had still not approved the pardon issued by Shahzeb’s parents. Since a final decision had not been made, he argued, the case could not be restarted.

At this, Justice Salahuddin, who was presiding over the proceedings, expressed surprise, saying that as the case was tried in an ATC and included clauses of terrorism, granting a pardon should not have been possible in the first place.

The judge, however, said the case could be sent for a retrial in a sessions court. Subsequently, he decided on a fresh trial of the case in a sessions court, disposing of the punishments previously handed to the four accused.

Twenty-year-old Shahzeb Khan, the son of Deputy Superintendent of Police Aurangzeb Khan, had been gunned down in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority on the night of December 24, 2012 when he was returning home along with his sister after attending a wedding.

Shahzeb was killed for picking a fight with one of the suspects’ servants, who had verbally threatened and harassed his sister.

Then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had taken suo motu notice of the incident, which sparked widespread outrage across the country through newspapers, TV channels and social media. As the prime accused belonged to powerful feudal families of Sindh, the incident had triggered a nationwide debate over whether the country’s elite could be held accountable for crimes they committed.