Sardar Bibi v Munir Ahmed (2017 SC MR 344)

Once an improvement made by a witness in their statements is found to be deliberate and dishonest, serious doubt is cast on the veracity of such a witness. Such witness statements may not be used to uphold a conviction.

Tags: Acquittal   Murder   Witness testimony  

Three accused were convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of two individuals under PPC 148 and 302(b). The Lahore High Court set aside the conviction of one of the co-accused while upholding sentences of the two others. The Supreme Court noted that while the underlying incident reportedly took place at 2 a.m., no sources of light were taken into possession by the investigating officer. The presence of light was a determinant factor for the identification of the accused, given that the eyewitnesses claimed to have identified the accused from a distance of approximately 100 feet. The Court emphasized that while the complainant alleged that the accused had been armed with particular firearms, the FIR did not include any such specifications. It was only during trial that the witnesses mentioned seeing the accused with specific weapons, and this testimony was contradicted by the medical report. The Court found these statements to be deliberate improvements and omissions made by the witnesses to bring the case in line with the medical evidence. In view of these inconsistencies and in the absence of an independent corroborative evidence, the Court held that the High Court had erred in upholding the sentences of the accused, while also dismissing the death sentence of the other co-accused based on the same evidence. The Court held that, “if the eyewitnesses produced by the prosecution are disbelieved to the extent of some accused person’s attributed role, then the said eyewitness cannot be relied upon for the purpose of convicting another accused person attributed a similar role.” For these reasons, the accused were acquitted.