Irfan Ali v. State (2015 SCMR 840)

An accused cannot receive a death sentence when a co-accused with a more serious role in the incident was acquitted.

The accused was convicted under Section 302(b) of the PPC and sentenced to death for murder of the deceased at trial while four of the co-accused were acquitted of murder charges and one other was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Lahore High Court confirmed the conviction and sentence of the accused appellant, but overturned the conviction and life sentence of the co-accused by extending him the benefit of doubt.

The deceased was allegedly murdered because he threw a woman out of his house and ruthlessly beat her. It was alleged that the co-accused initiated the aggression and fired four shots at the deceased, causing him injuries and to fall to the ground. The accused then stabbed the deceased when he was lying on the ground. The Supreme Court found that the award of the death sentence to the accused in such circumstances, when the co-accused who had a more serious and graver role in the incident was acquitted, was neither understandable nor warranted in law. The Court also found that that the evidence of witnesses, which had not been believed with regard to the acquitted co-accused, was relied upon for convicting the accused. Further, there was not a single iota of corroboratory evidence to substantiate the evidence against the accused. The initial statement given to the police referred only the gunshots, but when the post-mortem revealed the deceased had also been stabbed, the evidence was changed. In addition, the FIR was lodged after more than 3 hours and after 1-1/2 hours had been spent at the scene with the body of the deceased. This established that the crime was not witnessed. A recovered dagger was found to have blood planted on it because when it was recovered the report did indicate the presence of any blood. Further, none of the crime empties recovered from the scene matched the weapon allegedly recovered from the accused. The Court allowed the accused’s appeal and set aside the conviction and sentence against him.