SC acquits Shahrukh Jatoi in 2012 Shahzeb murder case
A three-person bench led by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan heard the case today.
Shahzeb Khan, the 20-year-old son of former deputy superintendent of police Aurangzeb Khan, was shot and killed on Saba Avenue in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority (DHA) on the night of December 24, 2012, and Jatoi’s attorney Latif Khosa claimed during the hearing that “the parties have already reached an agreement.”
After attending a wedding, Shahzeb and his family had just arrived home when his sister was verbally harassed by a member of the accused’s staff. The accused was confronted, and he demanded an apology.
But the defendants showed no remorse and refused to accept responsibility for their employee’s actions. When Shahzeb’s father intervened and made an effort to appease both his son and the other party, the problem seemed to have been resolved.
Soon after, the suspect chased Shahzeb down and shot him dead in broad daylight as he was on Saba Avenue after leaving his house in his car.
The murder sparked outrage across the nation, and the incident was brought to the attention of the then-chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, on his own initiative.
Shahrukh and Siraj Talpur received the death penalty from an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in June 2013, while Sajjad Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari received a life sentence.
Shahrukh received a second prison sentence of three years for illegally possessing a firearm. The convicts were also ordered by the ATC to pay a Rs500,000 fine each.
Shahrukh Jatoi flashed victory signs as he exited the court after the verdict was delivered for the countless cameras that were focused on him. Civil society once more condemned this behaviour, but a few months after the verdict, the victim’s father pardoned the accused. According to reports, the pardon was forced. The convicts subsequently requested a review of the judgement from the Sindh High Court (SHC).
The SHC made a decision regarding the criminal review petition in November 2017, overturned the death penalty imposed on the two defendants, and mandated a new trial.
The defence attorney had argued that since the primary suspect was a minor when the crime was committed, the terrorism charges should be dropped.
Shahrukh’s age had been a point of contention since the beginning of the trial, when a medical report revealed that he was between the ages of 17 and 18 at the time of the incident.
A seven-member medical board later concluded that Shahrukh was at least 19 years old after the ATC rejected the report.
However, the SHC agreed with the defense’s request to have certain portions of the anti-terror law removed.
released on bail
The Sessions Court granted bail to all of the accused in December 2017. The action infuriated the public once more, and a number of activists petitioned the supreme court to overturn the SHC’s decision.
Jibran Nasir, Jamshed Raza Mahmood, Afiya Shehrbano Zia, Naeem Sadiq, Nazim Fida Hussain Haji, Zulfiqar Shah, Aquila Ismail, Fahim Zaman Khan, and Naziha Syed Ali were among the activists who challenged the SHC order in a criminal petition to the Supreme Court.
Petitions from civil society
The petition claimed that citizens of the city where Shahzeb was killed had filed a criminal petition for leave to appeal, challenging the SHC order for not applying ATA provisions and setting aside the conviction recorded by the trial court. The petition was filed through renowned attorney Faisal Siddiqui.
According to the petition, the horrific murder incident had made people feel uneasy and afraid. Even though they did not directly know the deceased, the members of the civil society claimed that the fear and panic among the locals provided sufficient justification for them to file the case. They claimed that the murder had personally terrorised and intimidated them.
The SC overturned the 2017 SHC ruling and ordered a new trial in February 2018 after converting the petitions from the civil society into a suo motu notice.
The apex court also reinstated terrorism charges that had been brought against the defendants, Shahrukh, Siraj, and Sajjad, but were dropped by the SHC. The SC bench ruled that the accused’s bails from the sessions court were unlawful.
The accused were taken into custody in Islamabad and turned over to the Sindh Police shortly after the verdict was rendered. Additionally, their names were added to the Exit Control List.
The SHC heard arguments for and against the convictions over the course of a year, and in 2019 it commuted the death penalty given to Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Talpur, the two main defendants in the Shahzeb Khan murder case, into life in prison.
The high court also upheld the life sentences given to Sajjad and Ghulam, two additional defendants. On the review of petitions filed by the accused challenging their conviction, Justices Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Nazar Akbar announced their decision.
The accused had appealed the life sentence at that point, and on Tuesday, they were found not guilty.