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Depression Cannot Be Accepted As Ground For Suspension Of Trial, Rules SC

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The Supreme Court has ruled that ‘depressive illness’ is not incapacity that could justify the suspension of a trial in a murder case, saying that depression is a natural result of a crime.

“Depressive Illness is not a disease or incapacity recognized by law as a justification to deny justice to the victims of crimes or their families,” noted a three-judge bench in a four-page verdict authored by Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin.

According to a report in Express Tribune, “[Depressive illness also] does [not] allow digging out of acclaimed ‘incapacity’ by a physician of the offender’s own choice, other than the designated medical officers.”

“Depression is a natural concomitance of crime and one may hardly find a prisoner facing corporal consequences, possibly the gallows to stay unperturbed,” the court said.

“It is a state of mind primarily governed by a variety of factors including fear, regret or remorse; such inevitable disequilibrium is not recognized by law to hold the process of justice in abeyance.”

An offender can request for immunity from prosecution if he had an unsound mind at the time of the commission of the offence, the court said, adding that the accused, however, has to be clear and categorical in his claim.

“By raising such a plea, an offender takes upon himself the responsibility to discharge the onus and in the event of his failure, the court would draw a contra presumption,” the ruling said.

The court said Part VIII Chapter XXXIV Special Proceedings recognizes only dangerous or incapacitating lunacy to suspend the trial.

The order said it is for the trial court to settle the question of petitioner’s innocence or guilt on the strength of evidence with all available procedural safeguards. However, the bench noted, it appeared that the accused’s act was premeditated. The assassin had a preconceived/premeditated target and a purpose that he flawlessly achieved without any bullet left in the chamber, it said.

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Case background:

Gulalay, 27/28, a student of M.Phil, was shot dead inside the safety of her home located within the precincts of Police Station Cantt. Nowshera at 3:45 pm on Feb 2, 2019, in a family function, scheduled to fix her marriage date.

The incident was reported by Ashfaq Ahmed Khan who accused the petitioner, Uzair, of the crime. According to the complainant, the petitioner aspired to marry the deceased, already betrothed and it was in this background that he murdered the young lady within the view of the witnesses.

He was subdued by the attendants and produced before the police along with the weapon of offence. An autopsy was conducted the same day at 4:40 pm and the Medical Officer observed no less than seven entry wounds on different parts of the body.

The petitioner was sent to face trial before an Additional Sessions Judge at Nowshera.

He moved an application on May 5, 2019, purportedly under section 465 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 wherein he took the following grounds: “That, the accused/petitioner is suffering from different mental ailments from the last so many years… and remained admitted in hospitals”

The petition further said that the accused after remanding to the judicial lock-up is lodged in the mental hospital at Peshawar Prison, being dangerous for the life of others and is still there. “That the accused/petitioner in such circumstances is unable to defend himself within the parameter of the law during the course of the trial.”

The session judge, however, had rejected the request. The petitioner had also approached the Peshawar High Court (PHC) against the order but the high court also upheld the decision. The accused then moved the SC.

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