ISLAMABAD - While acquitting a convicted man, the Supreme Court has observed that if a minor could not be sentenced for a crime, his testimony as a witness also could not be relied upon for hanging a person, under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

When a three-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa took up an appeal of a man sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court, Justice Dost Muhammad Khan observed that if a minor could not be sentenced for his crime, as he is not aware of the consequences, how could his witness be considered reliable for hanging a person. Section 82 of PPC says: “Nothing is an offence, which is done by a child under seven years of age.”

The bench after hearing arguments of parties’ counsel acquitted the accused, Abdul Khaleeq, who was handed down life imprisonment by Anti-Terrorism Court in Lodhran in 2008 for kidnapping a minor boy, Ali Nawaz, for ransom.

The boy was recovered later and recorded his statement in the kidnapping for ransom case as a witness before the ATC.

The court initially refused to record the minor’s statement, but on the directives of the Lahore High Court (LHC) recorded his statement.

The trial court had awarded life imprisonment to the accused, which was maintained by the high court.

During the proceedings, the apex court observed it was the case of circumstantial evidence and the primary witness, in this case, was a child. Justice Dost said that the recording of statement before the trial was the question of the fact. Justice Khosa said that the observation of the trial judge in the case before him was very important. He said that if the LHC had dealt this case sensibly and had itself recorded the statement of the minor, the situation would have been different.

Justice Khosa observed “might be there is truth in the case but we doubt the facts of the case and the benefit of the doubt always goes in favour of the accused”.

He said there were serious flaws in the case. “The statement of kidnapped is not reliable and trustworthy and is replete with serious doubts.”

The bench ordered for the acquittal of the accused.