SC commutes sentence of convict on death row for 23 years



The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday commuted the death sentence of a convict who spent 23 years on death row.

A three-member apex judge bench – comprising Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Aminuddin Khan heard the petition filed by Muhammad Anwar’s (convict’s) brother, Muhammad Sarwar, against the capital punishment awarded to his brother.

According to the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), Anwar was in the ninth grade in 1993 when the police arrested him along with his brothers – Abdul Haq and Abdul Ghani – for killing a person during a scuffle in their neighbourhood.

In 1998, a trial court awarded him a death sentence despite the fact that Anwar was only 17-year-old – according to his birth registration certificate – when the incident took place.

Interestingly, two years after his conviction – on July 1, 2000 – the then government introduced the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), a law that prohibited the execution of any convict under the age of 18 at the time of the offence.

During this time, Anwar faced multiple death warrants only to be stayed at the eleventh hour and he lived through extreme prison conditions, damaging his mental health permanently, said the JPP.

Read more: SC offers relief to mentally ill convicts

Anwar’s family repeatedly appealed to the sessions’ court, the LHC, the SC and its human rights cell, the presidency and the Ministry of Interior to consider Anwar’s juvenility.

However, the requests were either ignored or rejected by the forums. But, now the apex court has converted the petition into an appeal and the same was allowed.

Justice Malik, while authoring an eight-page judgment, said that “Muhammad Anwar was a juvenile at the time of the commission of offence within the meaning of section seven of Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 and is entitled to benefits of Presidential Order dated 13.12.2001”.

Therefore conviction of Muhammad Anwar under section 302 (b) is maintained and his sentence of death is converted to imprisonment of life, the judgement added.

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(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)