Police Arrest, Harass Innocents For Ulterior Motives: SC

The top court acquitted the suspect who had been charged with collecting funds for Da'esh as it noted that it is the responsibility of the trial judges to take all necessary and possible steps to frame unambiguous charges and explain them to the suspect

Police Arrest, Harass Innocents For Ulterior Motives: SC

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has observed that the police arrest and harass innocents for ulterior motives. 

"We have noticed in a number of cases that the police arrest or harass innocent persons for ulterior motives or on the basis of suspicion, on the pretext of terrorism, without any solid or cogent evidence," the top court observed in a 10-page judgment. 

The judgement was issued in a case where, in 2020, petitioner Zain Shahid had been booked under different sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. He was accused of collecting funds for a proscribed outfit, namely Da'esh (Islamic State -ISIS). 

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and comprising Justice  Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi heard the case. In its short order, the court acquitted the accused of all charges as it set aside the decisions of the trial court and the Sindh High Court (SHC). 

In the detailed judgement authored by Justice Mandokhail, the top court observed that the responsibility of a trial judge includes taking necessary steps to frame unambiguous charges. 

"It is the responsibility of the trial judge to take all necessary and possible 
steps to ensure compliance of law with regard to framing of proper and unambiguous charge," the top court said. 

"Steps should also be taken to explain the charge to the accused to a possible extent, enabling him to fully understand the nature of allegations against him," it added. 

The top court said that it would be a failure of justice if the accused is misled by not mentioning the necessary ingredients of the offences in the charge or if the charge is framed in an incomplete, defective or vague manner. 

"Keeping in view the gravity and seriousness of the offences, the prosecution is required to produce tangible and high-quality evidence to prove the offence, in order to get conviction of a person charged, which is lacking in this case." 

The top court noted that the trial court, as well as the high court judges, had failed to consider the material available on the record and did not apply the law in its true perspective, hence reaching a wrong conclusion by convicting the petitioner. 

It was alleged that the petitioner, Zain Shahid, was arrested for possessing a donation book on which the word Da'esh was printed, and leaves of it contained his signature. An amount of Rs1,500 were also recovered from him. 

The court said that, admittedly, the petitioner did not sign any leaf of the book in the presence of witnesses. 

"Moreover, no leaf of it having the alleged signatures of the petitioner was sent to the forensic laboratory for obtaining expert's opinion to verify the signatures," the court observed.

"Under such circumstances, relying upon such a weak evidence will result into injustice."

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain