Muhammad Asif v. Muhammad Akhtar (2016 SCMR 2035)

When an offence arises out of an occurrence taking place at the spur of the moment without any premeditation, a death sentence is not justified.

The accused was convicted of murder under PPC 302(b) and sentenced to death by the trial court. He was a tailor who used his scissors to injure three people near his shop, one of whom later succumbed to death. The Lahore High Court converted the conviction to PPC 302(c), finding that the lack of previous enmity between the parties, the place of the occurrence, and the fact that the accused used his tailoring scissors all showed the incident was “a sudden occurrence developing without any premeditation.” The sentence was reduced to ten years rigorous imprisonment. The Supreme Court held that the case did not fall under PPC 302(c) because, under PPC 300, such treatment is only appropriate if both “the case was one of a sudden fight taking place without any premeditation in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel” and the accused did not take “undue advantage or must not have acted in a cruel or unusual manner.” Finding that the accused did take advantage and act cruelly and unusually by wounding three people in response to the quarrel, the Supreme Court reinstated the conviction under PPC 302(b). However, the Court also reduced the sentence to life imprisonment, stating that the motive set up by the prosecution was not proven (see below) and that “the occurrence in this case was indeed an occurrence taking place at the spur of the moment without any premeditation and, thus, the sentence of death passed by the trial court . . . was not justified.”