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September 13, 2018

Acquittal of MNA in murder case: Expert to decide if offence under ATA Section 7 compoundable


September 13, 2018

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court division bench on Wednesday appointed a criminal law expert as amicus curie (friend of court) to decide the legal point whether an offence under Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 was compoundable (reconcilable).

The bench headed by Justice Sardar Shamim Khan was hearing a matter regarding acquittal of PML-N MNA Ch Abid Raza Kotla and others following compromise in a murder case that also carried death penalty under the anti-terrorism law. The acquittal judgment, now suspended by the Supreme Court, was delivered in 2003 by a division bench headed by then Chief Justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry (late).

An anti-terrorism court of Gujranwala had in 1999 convicted Kotla and others of death penalty under Section 302 of PPC and Section 7 of ATA as well. The conviction was challenged before the high court.

However, the appeal against conviction was not decided on merit rather disposed of in the light of the compromise between the parties, and the sentence under the PPC was cancelled.

The bench in its decision skipped to examine the effect of the sentence under Section 7 of ATA (non-compoundable) and the prosecution never challenged the acquittal of the convicts. The Supreme Court in June 2016 suspended the 2003 judgment and restored the conviction of the MNA and other convicts under the special law (ATA). The apex court granted bail to them and referred the case to the high court.

During the Wednesday’s hearing, Kotla’s counsel Khwaja Haris did not appear before the bench due to his engagement in Islamabad. A representative from his chamber assured the bench that the counsel would appear in the court on Thursday. The bench decided to hold further proceedings of the case on a day-to-day basis and appointed Advocate Usman Naseem as amicus curie to render assistance to the court on the legal points involved in it. Abid Raza Kotli was elected to National Assembly from NA-71, Gujrat.

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