SC grants reprieve to death row prisoner

Published: March 14, 2018


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has acquitted a death row prisoner, nine years after he was convicted of murdering his wife.

Farhat Abbas Shah allegedly set his wife, Salma Bibi, on fire on the night of June 6, 2009, near GT Road. Fatally wounded, Salma Bibi made a statement before the local police in which she accused her husband of setting her aflame. She died short after due to the intensity of the burns.

Shah was booked in the murder case, registered at Gujar Khan Police Station, District Rawalpindi. He was awarded death sentence by a trial court. The sentence was subsequently upheld by the Lahore High Court in 2011.

He then filed a petition in the top court seeking reprieve.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising by Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, heard the case where Advocate Supreme Court (ASC) Ayesha Tasneem appeared on behalf of the appellant. The judgment was announced on March 7.

In the judgement, the bench observed that there were no witnesses to the incident and the only evidence against the man was the dying declaration by the deceased.

To the gallows: Murder convict awarded death penalty

The top court also noted that the medico-legal certificate showed that the word ‘somebody’ attributed to the deceased originally was subsequently changed into ‘husband’. “The said changed word had been recorded by Dr Farhat Baveed who had also put her [deceased’s] under that change,” read the judgement.

“The said change of the word ‘somebody’ into ‘husband’ has intrigued us,” the bench said. “The signature of Naveed at the time of replacing ‘somebody’ with ‘husband’ did not carry any date or time and the signatures of Naveed available on the Medico-legal Certificate were quite different from the signature of the said doctor statedly available under the dying declaration.”

Noting that the Medico-Certificate had been issued while Salma Bibi was still alive however, it did not contain her consent and during the hearing at the trial court, Naveed had maintained that the deceased was  in a serious condition hence her consent could not be obtained, the bench inquired if the deceased was not in a condition to give consent regarding medical examination then attributing a detailed statement to her as a dying declaration was hard to accept.

The court acquitted Shah on benefit of doubt.

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