Verdict overturning sentences in Shahzeb Khan murder case challenged in SC

Karachi (HRNW): A petition challenging the verdict of the Sindh High Court (SHC) that set aside the sentences awarded to Shahrukh Jatoi and other accused in high-profile Shahzeb Khan murder case was filed in the Supreme Court. Jibran Nasir, Jamshed Raza Mahmood, Naeem Sadiq and other members of civil society petitioned the apex court assailing the very verdict that paved the way for the convicts to walk free after obtaining bail in the murder case. The petition states the high court erred while overturning an anti-terrorism court’s guilty verdict and ordering retrial of the suspects by an ordinary court. Since the murder had triggered fear and panic among the people, it came within the ambit of anti-terrorism law, it said while pleading with the court to declare the high court’s judgment null and void.

On December 23, Shahrukh Jatoi and other accused were released after a local court granted them bail when the deceased’s father filed an affidavit in support of their bail applications. The District and Sessions Judge South granted them bail against a surety of Rs500,000 each. Aurangzeb Khan, the victim’s father, submitted an affidavit in the court today, confirming that he and members of his family had pardoned the suspects without any pressure or duress in the name of Allah. He added that an out-of-court settlement was reached with the suspects back in 2013. Twenty-year-old Shahzeb Khan, son of a DSP, was gunned down on the night of December 24, 2012 in Karachi’s Defence Housing Society. The incident had sparked widespread outrage across the country and attracted much media attention, prompting the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take suo motu notice of the murder. Jatoi, and his friend Siraj Talpur, were sentenced to death while his younger brother Sajjad Talpur and their cook Ghulam Murtaza Lashari were awarded life in prison by an anti-terrorism court.

Subsequently, the convicts challenged their sentences in the high court, requesting it to set the sentences aside. Jatoi, the key suspect, challenged his sentence on the ground that he was a juvenile at the time of committing the crime, therefore, he could not be tried under the anti-terrorism law. The appellants argued that the crime didn’t come within the ambit of the anti-terrorism law, thus, they should have been tried by an ordinary court instead of an anti-terrorism court. The SHC appellate bench overturned their sentences and sent the case back to a sessions court to conduct the trial of the suspects afresh. The bench directed the sessions court to determine whether the murder comes within the ambit of the anti-terrorism law. It should be noted that since the family of the deceased had reached an out-of-court settlement with the convicts and pardoned them, the point whether the crime comes in the jurisdiction of the terrorism law needed a rethink. The judges observed that the sentences were awarded by the trial court without fulfilling the legal requirements.

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