Hassan and Others v. State and Others (PLD 2013 SC 793)

Mitigating factors that prevent the imposition of the death penalty include: (1) lack of premeditation – which can be evidenced by the incident occurring at the ‘spur of the moment’; (2) failure to inflict repeat injuries where there was opportunity to do so; (3) co-accused received a lesser sentence; and (4) lack of clarity about who inflicted the fatal injuries. Further, a death sentence should be commuted to life where the accused has already served a full life term of imprisonment (25 years), giving rise to the ‘expectancy of life’ doctrine.

Zafar Iqbal was convicted under Section 302(b) of the PPC and sentenced to death by the trial court for murder. Brief facts of the case are that, while injured, the deceased gave a statement of events that was corroborated by three witnesses. His cattle had entered Zafar Iqbal’s field while they were grazing. When the deceased proceeded to round up the cattle, Zafar Iqbal appeared and began to hit him with a stick. When the deceased retaliated by abusing him, Zafar retrieved his gun and fired at him. At trial, Zafar admitted to firing the shot, but pleaded self-defence. However, he did not produce evidence to support this, nor did he state this under oath to establish his plea. The trial court accepted the evidence and statement of the complainant and the witnesses, convicting Zafar Iqbal and sentenced him to death. On appeal, the Lahore High Court upheld this conviction and sentence.

However, when the case proceeded to the Supreme Court, it found that there was no motive to kill, as the incident had occurred in the “spur of the moment due to sudden provocation without any pre-planning and pre-mediation”, with a “single shot fired”.1 The apex Court maintained Zafar’s’s conviction but commuted his sentence to life imprisonment with the benefit of Section 382-B of the CrPC, plus a fine.