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SC Says Offence In Terrorism Cases To Remain Non-Compoundable

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ISLAMABAD: In an important judgement with wide-ranging consequences, the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday said that terrorism cases would remain non-compoundable even if the aggrieved parties pardoned an offender in other less heinous crimes committed at the same time.

In the 27-page long verdict, the SC provided a comprehensive guideline for the future in connection with dealing with non-compoundable offence under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997, in case any compoundable offences were also committed simultaneously.

The judgement, announced by a seven-member larger bench in an open court, also explained the effect of compounding of coordinate compoundable offence upon non-compoundable offence of terrorism.

The verdict, authored by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa also cited some judgements on the same issue and observed that answers to the controversy were already available in bits and pieces which needed to be organised.

“Thus, the fresh judgement is necessary to consolidate all available solutions,” the verdict read, while clarifying that parties could not even invoke the apex court’s original jurisdiction under Article 184(3) or 187(1) of the constitution for reopening an already concluded case.

It was earlier argued that the SC should attend to such matters in exercise of its jurisdiction under these articles by revisiting the previous judgement to safeguard the interest of justice.

During the course of the hearing, the apex court itself posed a question asking if a non-compoundable offence could be treated as a compoundable offence for acquittal if a coordinate compoundable offence committed in the same case had been compounded by the relevant parties.

In the verdict, Justice Khosa explained that the non-compoundable offence of terrorism was a distinct and independent offence from any other coordinate offence committed in the same case.

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“Thus it is hereby held that an offence which the law declares to be non-compoundable remains non-compoundable even if in a coordinate compoundable offence a compounding takes place between the relevant parties,” the verdict read.

Despite any compounding of the coordinate compoundable offence, an acquittal could not be granted in the non-compoundable offence on that sole basis, it added.

Another question posed by the honorable judges was whether a sentence passed in a non-compoundable offence should be reduced on the ground that a coordinate compoundable offence committed in the same case had been compounded by the relevant parties.

In reply, the verdict mentioned that consideration of the sentence lies within the discretion of the court seized with the matter and cannot be treated as automatic.

Meanwhile, another question was raised regarding which of the courts would reduce the sentence in relation to a non-compoundable offence. The apex court explained that the trial court could reduce the sentence at the end of a trial.

“If the settlement between the parties reached in the coordinate compoundable offence at the appellate or revisional stage before a high court or the Supreme Court at the stage of appeal or review petition, then a prayer for reduction of the sentence passed for commission of the non-compoundable offence can be raised before the court seized with the pending matter,” the judgement explained.

“In case the Supreme Court has already passed a final order or judgement in an appeal but no review petition was filed so far, then reduction of the sentence passed for the non-compoundable offence may be sought on the ground of compounding of the coordinate compoundable offence through filing of a review petition before the apex court,” it added.

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Similarly, the verdict said that if the remedy of filing of a review petition before the apex court had already been exhausted and there being no scope for filing of a second or subsequent review petition, the only remedy for the reduction of sentence passed for the commission of non-compoundable offence would be to file a mercy petition before the president.

The president may in his discretion consider this aspect in the light of judgements passed by the superior court on the subject from time to time, the verdict said.

Further, it read that if the remedy of a mercy petition before the president has already been exhausted before compounding of the coordinate compoundable offence has taken place then after acceptance of the compromise by the competent court in respect of the coordinate compoundable offence, the superintendent of the jail, upon an initiative of the convicted prisoner, would forward a fresh mercy petition to the president to seek fresh consideration of the matter.

When seized with such a fresh mercy petition, the president may in his discretion consider the matter of the convicted prisoner’s sentence passed for commission of the non-compoundable offence afresh in the light of judgements passed by the SC, it added.

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