Javed Iqbal & Ors v. State (2016 SCMR 787)

Evidence that relies on vague, general allegations with material contradictions and that appears to be aimed at exculpating the police of wrongdoing is insufficient to support a conviction.

The accused was convicted and sentenced to death under PPC (302(b) and ATC 7(a), among many other charges, and 27 co-accused were all given life sentences in connection with a procession. The Lahore High Court commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. The accused persons were part of a procession that exchanged cross-fire with local police. No police official was injured whereas three members of the procession suffered bullet injuries. One person was killed.

The Supreme Court noted several suspicious allegations in the police investigation and the prosecution’s case. All crime empties recovered at the scene were attributed to the accused persons and none to the police, even though the police acknowledged there was firing on both sides. Crime empties and weapons were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory after an unexplained delay of 11 days. None of the 18 witnesses attributed the direct role of firing at the victim to any particular accused or member of the procession, while all of the accused attributed the fatal injury to police firing. The prosecution evidence lacked examination of any independent or other material witness; none of the motorway police (not involved in the shooting) or the driver or passengers of a nearby bus allegedly taken hostage were examined. Instead the case relied on “vague/general allegations with material contradictions about the whole incident, particularly about suppression of fact of police firing”. The possibility that the police had actually caused death of the victim could not be ruled out. Thus the accused’s murder convictions were set aside.