Shahbaz v. the State (2016 SCMR 1763)

An unexplained delay of 11 hours between the murder and post-mortem may indicate that police and complainant spent the time procuring and planting eyewitnesses, especially if the witness has been proven to be unreliable.

The accused was convicted and sentenced to death for murder under section PPC 302(b). The High Court confirmed the sentence. The accused and a co-accused were alleged to have stabbed a man to death using a chhurri. The co-accused was acquitted at trial. An eyewitness had attributed identical roles to both accused, and neither the State nor the complainant had challenged the co-accused’s acquittal. The Supreme Court held that this demonstrated that the eye-witness was capable of falsehood. Moreover, the accused’s version of events was actually corroborated—he sustained injuries himself, which was supported by the medical report but supressed at trial. A churri was recovered from the appellant’s custody but the Court found it inconsequential because there was no evidence of blood on this item. Finally, there was an unexplained delay of 11 hours between the death and the post-mortem—the Court stated that this time “had been consumed by the complainant party and the local police in procuring and planting eye-witnesses and in cooking up a story for the prosecution.” The accused was acquitted.