Murder convict can file second mercy plea: SC

Apex court issues 27-page verdict, which will reduce death sentence


Hasnaat Malik October 11, 2019
The Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has given another landmark judgement which will reduce death sentence in the country.

A seven-judge larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, on Friday declared that sentence passed in non-compoundable offence like terrorism be reduced on the ground of compromise between parties in compoundable offence committed in the same case.

“It is declared that in an appropriate case, keeping in view the peculiar circumstances of the case, compounding of a coordinate compoundable offence may be considered by a court towards reduction of the sentence, within the permissible limits, passed for commission of a non-compoundable offence,” stated a 27-page judgement authored by the CJP.

The judgement declared that consideration of this factor vis-à-vis reduction of the sentence passed for commission of the non-compoundable offence lies within the discretion of the court and cannot be treated as automatic or as a matter of course.

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The judgement made it clear that there would be no acquittal in non-compoundable offences like terrorism on the basis of compromise between private parties in compoundable offence in the same case. However, it declared that the convict’s sentence could be reduced in similar situation.

Pakistan Bar Council active member Azam Tarar believed that it was another CJP’s landmark judgement, which would open the window to reduce the death sentence in the country, saying that the verdict would protect life.

“Even the court has also given opportunity to the convict approaching president for second mercy on the basis of compromise in similar matters and the president in his discretion may reduce the conviction in view of the apex court’s verdicts,” said Tarar.

Barrister Asad Rahim said the SC clarified that a non-compoundable offence was distinct and independent from all other offences, and that there could be no acquittal whatsoever on the basis of compromise with private parties in a coordinate, compoundable offence. “There is now room for reduction in sentence, but that too is entirely at the court's discretion, and only within permissible limits; it can never be automatic or a matter of course.”

SC allows second mercy petition

In its judgement, the apex court has also allowed a convicted person to move a second mercy petition to the president of Pakistan for fresh consideration on the basis of compromise between parties in a similar matter.

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The court noted that if the remedy of a mercy petition before the president had already been exhausted before compounding of the coordinate compoundable offence took place then after acceptance of the compromise by the competent court the superintendent of the relevant jail shall, upon the initiative of the convicted prisoner, forward a fresh mercy petition to the president seeking fresh consideration of the matter by him in respect of the sentence passed against the convicted prisoner for commission of the non-compoundable offence in the light of compounding of the coordinate compoundable offence committed by him.

“When seized by such a fresh mercy petition the president may, in his discretion, consider the matter of the convicted prisoner’s sentence passed for commission of the non-compoundable offence afresh in the light of the judgements passed by this court on the subject from time to time.”

The court also held that the trail court could reduce the sentence in the same matter after conclusion of the trial. Likewise, if compromise had taken place at the appellate or revisional stage before a high court or apex court at the stage of petition for leave to appeal or appeal or review petition, a prayer for reduction in the sentence passed for commission of the non-compoundable offence might be made.

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