Let Justice Be Done Though The Heavens Fall
Justice is a notion so pure that it is autonomous to the idiosyncrasies of emotions, affections and aspirations. The only objective of a court of law should be to ensure that justice be done impartially, without fear, favor or ill will. Recently, the state of affairs of our judicial system came under strict scrutiny and criticism from many quarters because of the decision rendered by an Honorable Judge of the Lahore High Court in the Khadija Siddiqi stabbing case. The honorable judge while hearing the revision petition of the accused against the judgment of the learned Sessions Judge came to the conclusion that in the peculiar circumstances of the case, it was unsafe to maintain the conviction, thus setting aside the sentence and conviction recorded by the courts below.
Immediately after the pronouncement of the judgment, the honorable judge faced criticism and condemnation for his order. Public outcry was so wide and unrestrained that the Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan decided to take a suo motu notice in the matter, disregarding the tested provisions of appeal against acquittal provided in our Criminal Procedure Code.
A brief outlook at the judgment rendered by the Honorable Judge of the Lahore High Court is necessary in reaching a conclusion as to why he was inclined to allow the revision petition of the accused despite possibly being aware of public reaction that would follow his decision in light of all the social and traditional media campaigns being run in support of the victim. The honorable judge in his 12-page judgment firstly confronted the prosecution, the sole job of which was to bring home the charges against the accused without a shadow of doubt. The fact that they failed to produce the bloodstained clothes which the victim was wearing at the time of the accident was the first misadventure. Even in gruesome and heinous murder cases, the prosecution has to collect and preserve blood stained soil and clothes to demonstrate that the occurrence unfolded precisely as they claim it did. One of the most fatal blows to Khadija Siddiqi’s case was the fact that the prosecution failed to secure blood stained clothes of the victim.
Second is the question of identification. The case put forward by the prosecution was that the accused and the victim were classmates, thereby raising the presumption that they both knew and recognized each other. In this backdrop, when the accused was not nominated in the First Information Report (FIR) and had his name surface only in the prosecution’s case through a supplementary statement which according to the law cannot be read as an extension of the FIR, cast serious doubts about the veracity of the prosecution’s case. The existence of criminal jurisprudence lies in the foundation of ‘benefit of all’ and any reasonable doubt must be extended to the defense, which is what the learned judge did.
The honorable judge further in his judgment commented that the case of the prosecution claimed that the victim suffered 23 injuries – a claim which the prosecution stood by till the very end. However, such claim could not find any support through the medical evidence that was tendered by the prosecution itself. In the medical examination, it was recorded that the victim suffered 11 injuries. Hence, the case of the prosecution was falsified by their own evidence which once again cast grave doubt on the case that they were trying to make.
The judgment further emphasized that according to the prosecution the victim was taken to the hospital in her own car after the attack, but the prosecution again failed to bring on record any blood stained items in the car like foot mats or seat covers which were necessary to corroborate the stance taken by the prosecution, as mere statements mean nothing in the eyes of the law unless they are supported by tangible evidence, which in this case was missing.
The final blow to the prosecution’s case was the fact that the alleged dagger that according to the prosecution was used in the offence was recovered after a delay of five months by the police and that too from a public place. Hence, the prosecution failed to establish a link between the weapon and the accused. Furthermore, the dagger was also free from any blood thus it could not be said with complete confidence that it was the same weapon used in the alleged crime.
After considering all these factors which break down the prosecution’s case brick by brick, the honorable judge came to the conclusion that in the peculiar circumstances of the case, it would have been unsafe to maintain the sentence and conviction on appeal. It is also pertinent to note that the Honorable Judge of the Lahore High Court while adjudicating upon the case was exercising his revisional jurisdiction to determine the validity and legality of the orders passed by learned judicial officers subordinate to him and he had the jurisdiction to set aside their finding, which he did and did so very rightly in accordance with the law and the powers vested in him.
While adjudicating upon the case, the honorable judge held on to the Latin maxim, fiat justitaruatcaelum, which means “let justice be done though the heavens fall”. He was well aware of the consequences that would follow his decision but what he did was in complete consonance with well established legal principles. To say that a permanent judge of the High Court who has constitutional protection of tenure was bent by external pressure while hearing an ordinary criminal revision is absurd to say the least.
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