Ghulam Mohy-Ud-Din and others v State and Muhammad Sadiq v Liaquat Ali and others (2014 SCMR 1034)

Death sentence and life imprisonment are alternative sentences. If an accused has served equal to or greater than the period of a life sentence, their death sentence should be commuted to life, to then receive the death penalty would be to receive two sentences for one crime.

The Trial Court convicted the four accused on two counts of murder under Section 302(b) of the PPC and sentenced them to death. The accused persons had attacked two men at their shop, armed with various weapons. The fatal injuries from the attack led to the death of the two men. The Lahore High Court upheld the conviction and sentence of two of the accused. One was acquitted, and the other had his sentence commuted to 14 years imprisonment. The three accused appealed their sentences and the complainant cross-appealed the decision of the High Court to reinstate the trial judge’s decision.

On appeal, the Supreme Court found that motive was unproven and in any event was too feeble to constitute the death penalty for the two accused. The motive was alleged to be a dispute and litigation between the parties over a wooden stall. However, no evidence was adduced to corroborate this claim at trial.

The two appellants on death row had spent over 16 years in the death cells of the prison in terrible conditions. The apex Court referred to the principle that a convict who “undergoes a period of custody equal to or more than a term of imprisonment for life during pendency of his legal remedy…then keeping in view the principle of expectancy of life, it would be appropriate to reduce his sentence from death to life imprisonment.1 Furthermore, it stated that Section 302(b) of the PPC provides two alternative sentences; death sentence and imprisonment for life. Thus, “to impose death or to maintain it, after the convict had undergone imprisonment for life or equal to it, would defeat the clear intent of the Legislature.”2 The Supreme Court commuted the pair’s sentence to life imprisonment. The third accused did not press his appeal and so his claim was dismissed.

In relation to the complainant’s cross appeal, the Supreme Court held there was no legitimate reason to enhance the third accused’s sentence as the High Court had “given very sound, cogent and plausible reasons…distinguishing his role attributed to him in the crime”.3 The acquittal was also safe, as the accused had not carried out fatal injuries to the deceased. He “was not liable to be sent back to prison after a period of 18 years has passed, as such a course would defeat the ends of justice”.4