KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday threw out the appeals of Rangers personnel against their sentences handed down by the anti-terrorism court in the murder of 19-year-old Sarfaraz Shah.
In a judgment, a division bench of SHC comprising Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Naimatullah Phulpoto retained the sentences of all accused rangers personnel, except Lance Naik Liaqat Ali.
Sub-Inspector Bahaur Rehman, Lance Naik Liaquat Ali, constable Mohammad Tariq, constable Minthar Ali, constable Mohammad Afzal and private contractor Afsar Khan had been sentenced to life, while a Rangers man, Shahid Zafar, was handed down the death sentence by an anti-terrorism court on August 12, 2011.
Sarfraz Shah was shot twice by the Rangers personnel and was left to die in the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park in Clifton on June 8, 2011. Initially, the Rangers claimed to have killed a robber in an encounter but their claim was refuted after a video footage, incidentally recorded by a private TV channel’s cameraman, was televised nationwide.
The two-judge bench had reserved the verdict on May 30, 2013, on the appeals filed by the accused against their convictions, after hearing arguments from all parties at length.
The bench in its ruling observed that the Supreme Court in more than one cases has held that approach of the court while deciding the criminal matters should be dynamic and it should take into consideration that surrounding situation. It said that court should not lightly set aside a conviction on technical grounds if the court’s conscience is satisfied that factually the convict was guilty of the offence.
The bench said while relying upon judgment of apex court, we have no hesitation to hold that prosecution has proved its case against appellants except appellant Liaqat Ali beyond any shadow of doubt.
The bench said that all accused had rightly been awarded the sentence except Liaqat Ali as he was standing on Rangers van and there was no evidence to show that he shared common intention with main accused Shahid Zafar.
The court also dismissed the plea of victim’s family seeking enhancement of the sentences awarded to the convict. Though, the heirs of victim had later withdrawn the plea for enhancement of conviction as they had decided to forgive all of them in the name of God. During the pendency of the appeals of accused against their convictions, a compromise applications were filed by the legal heirs of the deceased Shah.
The bench dismissed the compromise application filed by victim’s family with a ruling that offence under section 302 PPC is compoundable but offence under section 7 of Anti-terrorism Act 1997 is not compoundable under the provisions of section 345 CrPC.
The bench held that the provisions as contained in section 345 CrPC cannot be stretched too far by including therein a non-compoundable offence under the garb of humanitarian grounds or on the ground that appellants belong to Rangers.
It observed, “The manner in which brutal murder of the deceased was committed was against society and it cannot be permitted to be compounded by any legal heirs of the deceased on any score whatsoever”.