Ghulam Mohy-Ud-Din alias Haji Babu v. State (2014 SCMR 1034)

A single mitigating circumstance or a single factor creating reasonable doubt is enough to reduce the sentence of death to life imprisonment.

The accused were convicted of murder and sentenced to death under PPC 302(b) and 34. The Lahore High Court upheld the sentences.

The Supreme Court again stated that PPC 302(b) affords the court the discretion to choose between a sentence of death or life imprisonment for murder, and stated that “if the intent of the Legislature was to take away the discretion of the Court, then it would have omitted from clause (b) of section 302, PPC, the alternative sentence of life imprisonment.”

This discretion was to be exercised based on the facts and circumstances of each case. The Court noted that even “a single mitigating circumstance…would be sufficient to put on guard the Judge not to award the penalty of death but life imprisonment” and that “if the Judge/Judges entertain some doubt, albeit not sufficient for acquittal, judicial caution must be exercised to award the alternative sentence of life imprisonment.”

Whilst the Court refused to give a set of strict guidelines on how to apply this discretion, it went to great pains to communicate that “In any case, if a single doubt or ground is available, creating reasonable doubt in the mind of Court/Judge to award death penalty or life imprisonment, it would be sufficient circumstances to adopt alternative course by awarding life imprisonment instead of death sentence.”

In the instant case, lack of a clear motive was enough for such doubt to be created. The accused was sentenced to life imprisonment.