Hashim Qasim v. State; Jehangir Elahi v. Shoaib Ahmed (2017 SCMR 986)

In order for a court to rely on circumstantial evidence in cases involving capital punishment, such evidence must be so interlinked that it constitutes a single unbroken chain and be beyond reproach.

The accused was convicted and sentenced to death under PPC 302(b) for murdering and sodomizing the deceased. The Peshawar High Court confirmed the sentence. The lower court’s conviction was based on the following evidence: a retracted confession of one of the co-accused, the last seen evidence of an eyewitness, evidence regarding the motive of the crime, medical evidence and a statement made by the accused regarding the scene of the crime. When analysing the circumstantial evidence presented, the Court held that it is “required to take extra care and caution to narrowly examine such evidence with [a] purely judicial approach to satisfy itself, about its intrinsic worth and reliability, also ensuring that no dishonesty was committed during the course of collecting such evidence.” Given this principle, the Court found that the eyewitness testimony and the evidence regarding the accused’s motives was of little value, since the record contained indication that they were either manufactured by the police or acquired by chance. The Court also noted that a confession made by the accused constitutes corroborative evidence only when it is made voluntarily and is based on a true account of the facts. In this case, the Court held that the confession made by the accused could not be considered, as he had been given no time for reflection and was not provided with the counselling services that he was entitled to as a minor. Finally, the Court maintained that in order for it to rely on circumstantial evidence to uphold capital punishment, all circumstantial evidence needs to be inter-linked, to the point where it constitutes a single unbroken chain. Because even a single doubt on the merits of the circumstantial evidence could render the evidence unreliable, the accused and co-accused were acquitted of their charges.