Two men acquitted after 10 years in jail in 395kg marijuana case


–Lahore’s Millat Park police fail to substantiate allegations against appellants

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday acquitted two men, who had been in jail for over 10 years, after the Millat Park police failed to present solid evidence against them in a case that involved 395kg of marijuana.

A LHC division bench comprising Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan heard the appeal of the two men. The bench noted that “safe custody of the parcels of case property and samples have not been proved in this case beyond a shadow of a doubt”.

“In view of the law and the above-stated facts, while extending benefit of doubt to the appellants, both the appeals are allowed and judgment dated March 31, 2016, handed down by the learned additional sessions judge/judge special court, Lahore, is set aside, resulting in acquittal of the appellants, namely Ayyaz Ahmad and Shakir Ali. The appellants are behind bars. They be released forthwith if not required in any other case,” the court order stated.

On July 11, 2009, Lahore’s Millat Park police arrested Ayyaz Ahmad, Shakir Ali and their co-accused Zubaida alias Bali Jati and lodged FIR (First Information Report) 249/09 under Section 9-C of the Control of Narcotics Substances Act, 1997, framing the charge that they recovered 5kg hashish from Bali Jatti, and 395 kg hashish from Ayyaz Ahmad and Shakir Ali.  The police in its, First Information Report (FIR), claimed that they recovered the substance from secret cavities of a vehicle parked in the Millat Park area.

Later, on May 31, 2016, a special court in Lahore sentenced Ayyaz Ahmad and Shakir Ali to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000 each. The sentence further stated that if the convicts failed to pay the fine they would be subjected to further one-year imprisonment.

Zubaida alias Bali Jatti, the co-accused, confessed her guilt before the court and was awarded punishment in a separate case. Appellants Ayyaz Ahmad and Shakir challenged the verdict of the special court before the LHC through their lawyer Advocate Saiqa Javed, pleading that their innocence.

Advocate Saiqa Javed argued that the appellants were not driving the vehicle from which the illegal substance was recovered nor did either of them own it. She stated that police officials made false statements in the trial and failed to establish any link between the appellants and the recovered vehicle.

The complainant, she further argued, did not state that he handed over the case property or the parcels of samples to the investigation officer or to the moharrir malkhana of the police station. “The moharrir also did not state how many parcels he received and how many parcels he handed over to other police officials for investigation purposes. They just implicated innocent citizens in a defamatory case, wasted 10 years of their lives and failed to provide evidence,” she contended.

On the other hand, the prosecution opposed the arguments of the appellants saying that 395kg hashish was recovered from the possession of the appellants while the appellants failed to establish any malafide intentions on the part of the prosecution for their false involvement in the case.

Police officials also told the trial court that the appellants led them to recovery of the contraband substance from the secret cavities of the vehicle while Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) also could not prove any doubt in the prosecution evidence. After hearing arguments of both sides, the bench ordered their immediate release from jail.

It is pertinent to mention here that there is no compensation policy of the state for those citizens who suffer in jail for years and are later declared innocent by the courts.