–Accused seek time to hire legal counsel
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of Mukhtaran Mai’s review petition pertaining to the acquittal of 13 accused in the gang-rape case till March 24.
A three-member bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed was due to hear the petition, filed by Mai through her counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan in 2011. However, as the accused sought more time to hire a defence lawyer, the court adjourned the hearing.
Mai was gang raped in June 2002 on the orders of a village council as punishment after her younger brother was accused of having illicit relations with a woman from a rival clan.
Mai had moved an anti-terrorism court against her rape in Aug 2002. The court had released eight suspects while sentencing six men to death — four for raping Mai and two for being part of that jirga.
Later, the Lahore High Court’s Multan bench, on separate appeals, acquitted five of the convicts and converted the death sentence of Abdul Khaliq on the death row to life imprisonment.
Mai had moved the SC against the LHC verdict however, her appeal was rejected by a three-member bench by a majority of two to one in April 2011.
That bench comprised Mian Shakirullah Jan and future chief justices Nasirul Mulk and Mian Saqib Nisar. The dissenting note was penned by Nasirul Mulk.
Subsequently, Mai filed a review petition in the top court seeking a larger bench.
In the review petition, Mai had pleaded that the court should review and recall the judgement and grant relief as prayed in the titled criminal appeal.
She had also requested the court to constitute a larger bench to hear her review petition, contending that she is aggrieved of and dissatisfied with the findings of the court.
“The findings, reasons and considerations of this court that led to the conclusion as stated herein before are based on erroneous assumptions of material facts and misreading of the record…,” the petition stated.
Appearing on behalf of the petitioner, senior counsel Ahsan had argued that there were at least nine instances where evidence had not been noticed, which was enough to prove that the 2011 judgment could not be sustained and was therefore contrary to the fundamental rules of the dispensation of justice.
Mai contended that the judges had misapplied the principles relating to appeals against the acquittal.
Her counsel Aitzaz Ahsan further submitted that Hazoor Bakhsh and Ghulam Hussain, being close relatives of the petitioner-complainant, could not pass the test of independent witnesses; therefore, the recovery of the pistol from the accused should be disbelieved.