The detailed judgement behind a controversial Lahore High Court decision to acquit the son of a prominent lawyer accused of mercilessly stabbing a classmate 23 times was issued late Thursday afternoon, with the judge ruling that the prosecution had failed to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In his detailed judgement in what has become known as the Khadija Siddiqui case, Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem overturned the earlier conviction of Shah Hussain — who allegedly attacked Khadija for spurning his advances — as he was ‘forced to disbelieve the injured prosecution witnesses’.
He also conceded that this was not an ordinary stance to take as ‘the injured witness is not normally disbelieved’. The circumstances compelling the judge’s disbelief — according to Justice Naeem — were that the attack took place on a thoroughfare in broad daylight but ‘no independent witness was cited by the prosecution’; that the star witness had denied suggestions that it was a ‘high-profile’ case, but acknowledged that Tahmina Durani exercised her influence at a later stage and that the investigating officer also said it was a ‘high-profile’ case.
He also stated that Khadija Siddiqi, the victim and ‘injured eyewitness’, had ‘not described the true/complete tale’; and that the attack ‘may have taken place, but not in the manner as described by the eye/injured witnesses’. Justice Naeem also ruled that he believed that, after the attack, Khadija ‘was in her senses, well oriented in time and space’ and so the registration of the first information report (FIR) of the case ‘against an unknown accused in her presence is a question mark’.
‘Evidence of eye/injured witnesses, thus, could not be relied upon with any amount of confidence,’ he stated. ‘This aspect of these witnesses had escaped the notice of both the courts below [the two courts which had heard the case earlier] resulting in miscarriage of justice,’ he ruled before overturning the conviction and ordering that the accused, Shah Hussain, be released forthwith.
Elsewhere, the judge also questioned the late recovery of the knife allegedly used by the attacker — it was taken into possession after five months of the attack — and why it was not blood stained when it was recovered. He also questioned a discrepancy in the color of the helmet worn by the attacker as described by prosecution witnesses. He also questioned why Khadija had deposed that Hussain harassed her when she ‘wrote a letter of four pages […] proposing him for marriage’ and had ‘never complained against the petitioner for any misconduct or harassment’ and then ruled that he could not believe her as ‘the motive set up by the prosecution comes to the ground’.
He also ‘observed’ at one point that ‘mere presence of injuries would not stamp out that he [the witness] is a truthful witness’ and that ‘it is not a universal rule that each and every word coming from the mouth of the injured person is truth’.
From the judge’s observations, there were also reasons to believe that the investigating officer may have spoilt the case by failing to secure evidence like the victim’s bloodstained clothes and the car upholstery, which might have carried bloodstains (evidence of the attack).
The judge also made much of the fact that Khadija did not immediately name her attacker in the FIR, noting that she had simply stated to the medical officer who first examined her that ‘a boy’ attacked her. Justice Naeem also refused to believe that she may not have been in a condition to record the FIR promptly on the grounds that she had correctly answered ‘many medical questions including name, place, time and person’ when she was first examined after the attack.