Muhammad Ismail v. State (2017 SCMR 898)

A judicial confession submitted by the accused cannot be used to uphold a conviction, where such confession was retracted during trial and there is no independent evidence corroborating it.

Four accused were convicted and sentenced to death for murder, under PPC 302(b). The sentences were confirmed by the Lahore High Court. The underlying incident took place at night and was reportedly unwitnessed. Before trial, the prosecution introduced some circumstantial evidence. Waj takker evidence (a term used by the Court to refer to an eyewitness who claims to have seen the accused returning from the scene of the crime) was supplied by a witness who lived 100 miles away from the scene and could not justify his presence there. Statements from two other witnesses, who allegedly saw the accused throwing the dead bodies of the deceased in a well on the night of the incident but made no attempts to contact the police, were also included. The Court dismissed these statements as unreliable. Reports matching some crime empties with the ones found in the custody of the accused were also disregarded, as they did not satisfy the provisions of section 103 of CrPC. Furthermore, the Court held a judicial confession submitted by the accused to a magistrate before the Trial Court cannot be relied upon to uphold a conviction unless independent corroborative evidence strengthening such submission is also submitted. Finally, since the accused also submitted an application to the trial court challenging the confessions attributed to them and stated that they had never been produced before a magistrate to record their confessions, the Court held that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. The accused were thus acquitted.