Abdul Haque v. State (PLD 1996 SC 1)

Grave and sudden provocation may be a mitigating factor despite it not being available as a plea under the law. In establishing provocation, specific cultural practices/traditions may be considered.

Abdul Haque was convicted for murder under Section 302(b) of the PPC and sentenced to imprisonment for life by the trial court. The Quetta High Court, however, enhanced his sentence to death.

Brief facts are that the deceased was charged with the murder of Abdul Haque’s father. As the deceased entered the courtroom, in front of witnesses, he insulted the accused, saying that he would commit Zina with Abdul Haque’s wife and other wives in his tribe. On hearing this, Abdul Haque drew a pistol and shot him dead.

On appeal, the Supreme Court reduced Abdul Haque’s sentence to imprisonment for life due sudden provocation. The Court took into account that if the murder was premeditated, the accused had ample better opportunities in which to kill the deceased, but instead only reacted when provoked. The court cited with approval the principle that if the Court finds a ‘reasonable possibility’ that the accused’s defence is true then the accused “would be entitled to benefit of doubt not as a matter of grace but as a right because prosecution has not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.”1

Furthermore, it was considered that the accused is Pathan, and as such is culturally very sensitive to derogatory comments to women, and is expected to react quickly to such provocations. In the specific circumstances, the court found that grave and sudden provocation should be found as a mitigating circumstance, despite it not being available as a plea under the law. Thus, the Court dismissed the enhancement of sentence and convicted the accused to life imprisonment, under PPC section 302(b).