16 January 2023

By Rehan Piracha


The Lahore High Court has acquitted a man of a murder charge after the prosecution failed to prove its case, setting aside his death sentence awarded by a trial court in 2019.

Arsalan alias Shani was accused of fatally shooting his friend Gul Nawaz in a car in Gujranwala on February 14, 2017, after picking him up from his house for a joyride on Valentine’s Day. According to the first information report registered with the Baghwanpura police station, complainant Zahida Bibi, mother of Gul Nawaz, said that Arsalan on the said date took her son along with some other friends to meet a woman called Musarat Shaheen, whom she claimed was an acquaintance of Arsalan’s. When they came out of the woman’s house, an altercation took place between Arsalan and Gul Nawaz in the street, she added.
During the fight, Arsalan fired a pistol shot at Gul Nawaz who was fatally wounded on the right thigh and fell on the rear seat of the car. Arsalan and his co-accused Waqar threw Gul Nawaz out of the car and fled the spot in the vehicle, the complainant told police. The injured Gul Nawaz succumbed to his injuries on his way to the local hospital.
The trial court sentenced Arsalan to death for murder and also ordered him to pay Rs 500,000 to the heirs of the deceased as compensation. He was to undergo six months imprisonment in case of default on the payment of compensation. Prior to his sentencing, the trial court acquitted two co-accused Waqar and Musarat Shaheen in the murder case after they reached a compromise with the legal heir of the murder victim.  According to the prosecution, Arsalan was arrested on February 20, 2017, and led police to the spot where he allegedly hid the car and the pistol used in the murder. The trial court based his conviction on the testimony of two eyewitnesses who claimed they were with Gul Nawaz when he was shot by Arsalan.
AGHS Legal Aid Cell took up the appeal of Arsalan in the Lahore High Court against the death sentence awarded to him in the murder case. Shabbir Hussain, defence counsel for Arsalan, contended that Arsalan was falsely implicated in the case with the connivance of local police.
The key eye-witnesses, who were also related to the deceased being his cousins, could not establish any valid reason to be at the murder scene which happened close to midnight, the defence counsel said, adding that there was a delay in the registration of the FIR as well as in conducting post mortem of the deceased, casting doubt on the prosecution story.
According to the post-mortem report, the deceased died of excessive bleeding and no bandage was seen on the single bullet wound. The coronary doctor stated there was a lapse of about one to three hours between the injury and death of the murder victim. Besides, the eyes and mouth of the deceased were open when brought for autopsy. The defence counsel also pointed out that there were no blood stains found in the rear seat of the car. If the eyewitnesses were present with the murder victim, they could have applied a bandage or cloth to stop the bleeding of the deceased and closed his eyes and mouth when he passed away, the defence counsel contended.
The defence counsel contended there was no proof that the recovered vehicle was owned by Arsalan. The empty bullet shell was sent to the Punjab Forensic Science  Agency laboratory two days after Arsalan’s arrest, giving police ample time to plant evidence, he added. The defence counsel argued that the prosecution failed to establish a motive for the murder against Arsalan.
In its judgement, the high court noted that the FIR and prosecution witnesses had failed to mention any reason for the alleged motive of an earlier quarrel between Arsalan and Gul Nawaz, adding that a vague and general statement in respect of the motive has been made by the complainant. “We are, therefore, of the view that the prosecution miserably failed to provide any motive in this case,” the bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Waheed Khan and Justice Shahzad Ahmad Khan, said in their order. The bench acquitted Arsalan of the charge of murder by giving him the benefit of doubt.
“…..the prosecution has failed to prove its case against the appellant beyond the shadow of doubt, therefore, we accept Criminal Appeal No.19369 of 2019 filed by Arsalan alias Shani, set aside his conviction and sentence, and acquit him of the charge by extending him the benefit of doubt,” reads the court order. The court ordered his release from jail where he was incarcerated for six years.
AGHS Legal Aid Cell is one the largest pro-bono legal service provider in the country. In 2022, the firm gave free legal assistance in 1534 cases concerning women, children and minorities and provided legal representation to vulnerable and disenfranchised individuals in more than 45 bail cases.







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