KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday set aside the capital punishment awarded to Shahrukh Jatoi and one of his accomplices in the famous Shahzeb Khan’s murder case and referred the case back to a sessions court for retrial.
In August 2013, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi handed down death sentence to Jatoi and Nawab Siraj Talpur for killing Shahzeb Khan on the night of December 24, 2012 when Shahzeb was returning home along with his sister after attending a wedding.
The ATC had also awarded life imprisonment to Jatoi’s accomplices – Sajjad Talpur and his servant Ghulam Murtaza Lashari. Later, Jatoi and others had challenged their conviction in the SHC.
The SHC held several rounds of proceedings to review Jatoi’s application for retrial by a juvenile court, his compromise with the victim’s family, the appeals of the other defendants and a reference sent by the ATC seeking confirmation of sentences.
Farooq H Naek, who represented Jatoi, argued that the convict was a juvenile at the time of crime and, therefore, his case should not have been tried by an ATC. He claimed that the murder was a result of personal enmity and pleaded the high court to order retrial of the case by a sessions court.
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After conclusion of the arguments, the two-judge SHC bench, headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar, on Tuesday set aside the ATC’s judgment and remanded the case back to the sessions court for retrial.
“We find that this was a case of personal vendetta; hence Section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act was misapplied by the police as well cognizance and trial was not proper,” ruled the bench in its judgment.
In his plea, Jatoi had also mentioned of the compromise struck with the victim’s legal heirs. In the compromise, Shahzeb Khan’s family had said they had pardoned Jatoi without accepting blood money.
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With regard to the compromise, the SHC ruled: “The trial court will be competent to decide the compromise application within four months within the four corners of law; as well as any other application before the trial court.”
However, the judges dismissed the criminal revision application of Jatoi, seeking his trial by the juvenile court under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000. The court also answered in the negative the reference sent by the ATC’s judge for sentences’ confirmation.
Shahzeb Khan’s killing had sparked a debate on whether the country’s elite could be held accountable for crimes they commit. The murder was followed by protests of civil society members that prompted the then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take suo motu notice of the incident.
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