Iftikhar Hussain v. State (2004 SCMR 1185)

Where witness evidence is unreliable in regard to the involvement of one of the co-accused then, ordinarily, they cannot be relied upon against the other co-accused unless their testimony is sufficiently corroborated through strong corroboratory evidence coming from an unimpeachable and independent source.

The accused and eight co-accused were all tried for a revenge killing and acquitted at the trial court. The State appealed against the acquittals of the nine accused. The Lahore High Court convicted the accused under Section 302(b) of the PPC and sentenced him to life imprisonment, maintained the acquittals of the other seven co-accused, while one co-accused passed away during imprisonment.

The case against the accused relied on testimony by two eye-witnesses, who had implicated nine accused in the case. The Supreme Court stated clearly that “the statements of these witnesses could only be accepted to convict the appellant if corroborative evidence is available on record because both of them have not been found truthful against seven accused persons out of the nine.” The Court found no corroboration. The FIR had been intentionally delayed and was lodged after preliminary inquiries and consultation had taken place, and therefore it lost its evidentiary value. The Court said that where the FIR is delayed, the obvious presumption which follows is that the witnesses were not present at the place of occurrence, the accused were not identifiable and after due deliberation a story was cooked up fitting each accused in the occurrence”. The Court also found that the recovery of the crime weapon from the accused was highly doubtful; it was unlikely that the accused would keep a murder weapon on him for 3 days. Further the unexplained considerable delay in sending the empties and weapon for testing deprived the weapon of its corroborative value. As the eye-witness account was disbelieved in the case of the seven co-accused who were acquitted, the Supreme Court held that the same could not be relied upon to convict the accused in the absence of any additional corroborating evidence. The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and the conviction and sentence of the accused was set aside.