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Detailed judgement is issued in Salman Taseer murder case.—AFP/File
Detailed judgement is issued in Salman Taseer murder case.—AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has held that a call for improvements in the blasphemy law in order to provide safeguards against its misuse by levelling false allegations should not be considered objectionable.

“Any call for reforming the blasphemy law (Section 295-C Pakistan Penal Code) ought not to be mistaken as a call for doing away with that law and it ought to be understood as a call for introducing adequate safeguards against malicious application or use of that law by motivated persons,” says the detailed judgment issued on Tuesday by the apex court in the Salman Taseer murder case.

On Oct 7, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had restored the Oct 1, 2011 capital sentence awarded by an anti-terrorism court to Malik Mohammad Mumtaz Qadri — an Elite Force commando who assassinated former Punjab governor Salman Taseer outside his residence adjacent to an upscale market in Islamabad on Jan 4, 2011 — for allegedly committing blasphemy.

Also read: SC maintains Mumtaz Qadri's death penalty, says he is a terrorist

The court was seized with two appeals, one moved by Advocate Mian Nazir Akhtar on behalf of Mumtaz Qadri, and the other by the federal government also against the Islamabad High Court verdict.

Authored by Justice Khosa, the 39-page judgment said that blasphemy was abhorrent and immoral, besides being a manifestation of intolerance, but a false allegation is equally detestable as well as culpable.

Detailed judgement issued in Salman Taseer murder case

If Islam comes down heavily upon commission of blasphemy then Islam is also very tough against those who level false allegations about a crime, the verdict said. It asked the state to ensure that no innocent person was compelled to face an investigation or a trial on the basis of false or trumped up allegations of blasphemy.

The definition of blasphemy in Section 295-C PPC, the judgment said, might be considered by some to need improvement to bring it in line with the true scope of the concept of blasphemy. Likewise, there may be others who may feel that some procedural and other safeguards need to be introduced so that it should become difficult to level or prosecute a false allegation regarding commission of the offence of blasphemy.

The issue involved in this case is not as to whether anybody is allowed to commit blasphemy by defiling the sacred name, but the real question involved is whether a person is justified in killing another person on his own on the basis of an unverified impression or an un-established perception that the other person has committed blasphemy.

Citing amendments in the Hudood laws, the judgment said that in all matters, including religious, there was an ongoing effort to keep the laws of the land updated through amendments to meet the emerging challenges and also to provide safeguards against mischievous manipulations, misapplication or misuse of the existing laws.

It is an unfortunate fact, which cannot be disputed, that in many cases registered in respect of blasphemy offence, false allegations are levelled for extraneous purposes. And in the absence of adequate safeguards against misapplication or misuse of such law by motivated persons the persons falsely accused of that offence suffer beyond proportion or repair, the verdict said.

Referring to one of the Judicial Training Toolkits prepared by the Legal Aid Society, Karachi, the court recalled, cases against 434 offenders under blasphemy laws were registered in Pakistan from 1953 to July 2012. And among them 258 were Muslims (Sunni/Shia), 114 Christians, 57 Ahmadis and 4 Hindus.

Since 1990, 52 people have been extra-judicially murdered for having been implicated in blasphemy cases. Among them were 25 Muslims, 15 Christians, 5 Ahmadis and 1 each Buddhist and Hindu. During 2013, the verdict said, 34 new cases were registered under the blasphemy laws.

While one death sentence for blasphemy was overturned during the year, at least another 17 people were awaiting execution for blasphemy and at least 20 others were serving life sentences.

The government has never carried out a death sentence for blasphemy, but a report suggested that at least five people accused of blasphemy had died in police custody in recent years, the judgment said.

The majority of blasphemy cases are based on false accusations stemming from property issues or other personal or family vendettas rather than genuine instances of blasphemy and they inevitably lead to mob violence against the entire community, says the judgment.

Citing the failure, inefficiency and incompetence of the investigating officer (IO) in handling the case like Qadri’s, the court ordered the Inspector General of Police, Punjab, to ensure that whenever such case was registered in future, it should be entrusted to a team of at least two gazetted IOs preferably those conversant with the Islamic jurisprudence. In case they themselves are not conversant with Islamic laws, a scholar of known reputation and integrity should be added to the team.

The team should then investigate whether or not an offence has been committed and if it comes to the conclusion that the offence has been committed the police may only then proceed further in the matter.

The verdict also proposed that the trial in such cases be held by a court presided over by no less than a district and sessions judge.

The judgment regretted that Qadri acted on hearsay without getting his information ascertained, verified or investigated and as Allah Almighty has warned, brought harm not only to another person (Salman Taseer) but also to himself.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2015

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Comments (46) Closed

Bhaijan Oct 28, 2015 07:46am

Glad to know that the Judicial authority is making proper amendment to the Blasphemy law to safeguard the rights of the blasphemer as well if he/she is being victimized without evidence and proof. But if it's found that charges were made out of enmity, extremism or personal vendetta that person should be severely punished to discourage others who try to use the law for personal ends.

Padmakar Oct 28, 2015 08:09am

Indeed very progressive and modern law...!!

imran Oct 28, 2015 08:16am

Finally a sane judgement about an insane act.

kp Oct 28, 2015 08:24am

The only improvement can be to make it more stringent.

Hashim Oct 28, 2015 08:28am

Excellent judgement!!

PHILOSOPHER (from Japan) Oct 28, 2015 08:37am, the wording of SC sound like the wordings of Salman Taseer who had been killed for unknown reasons.

athar Oct 28, 2015 08:38am

Thanks God, sanity is prevailing. strict action may be taken against those who are trying to portrait Mumtaz Qadri as Ghazi and hero. They are equally responsible in the crime. Government may also take actions against the preachers of Fatwas. Our society is on the brink of collapse, it can only survive through rule of law.

YOUKNOWIMRIGHT Oct 28, 2015 08:40am

Pakistan will never be able to take its place among the advanced, civilised nations of the world so long as it has this sort of law on its statutes --

Himanshu Oct 28, 2015 08:44am

The only institution in Pakistan which is doing his Job in best way.. Regard to CJI Pakistan .

Raja Hindustani Oct 28, 2015 08:56am

Bold & progressive !!

khurram Oct 28, 2015 09:12am

The judgement reflects the true islamic spirit...

hussain684 Oct 28, 2015 09:20am

If a case is not proved, same punishment can be administered to the one who leveled the allegation. So one will think before alleging the others for personal motives

Syed Hussain Akbarii Oct 28, 2015 09:22am

Let us hope that the people open their eyes and come to senses and let the court decide the actual happening and judgement thereafter.

Naveed Khan Oct 28, 2015 09:31am

I admire the SC judges for a balanced and enlightened judgement. Yes, Blasphemy law must be improved to protect the innocent against false allegations.

Kamran Oct 28, 2015 09:44am

This is a good step in a positive direction. Of course, it cannot abolished in one click but gradually we can eliminate it. Kudos to SC

talhabmasood Oct 28, 2015 09:53am

Great. Now the next step for the SC (or whatever management/oversight body we have in Judiciary domain) to inculcate these thoughts throughout the hierarchy from top to bottom......!!

khanm Oct 28, 2015 09:55am

Indeed and excellent should be implemented in it true spirit and strict punishment should be to those who falsely accuse for their ulterior motives...At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.

Gul Dad Oct 28, 2015 09:57am

Who gives right to individuals to act on behalf of state? I think only state has the monopoly in using force and that too through constitutional means.

seemi Oct 28, 2015 10:03am

This judgment proved that Salman Taseer was right. Bundle of thanks to these brave judges. I wish this judgment will encourage other judges to make brave decisions.

Reader Oct 28, 2015 10:06am

Balanced and rational, reading. Just think the number of precious lives lost, how many precious lives lost which have not been reported. Our society is indeed in the throes of darkness. We have to improve.

Rahul Oct 28, 2015 10:21am

A tight walk balancing the wishes of the people and need to serve natural justice, very impressive. This I think can be sold politically. Kudos to the learned people of the Pakistan Supreme Court. This makes you all look very good in the eyes of the world.

adventurer Oct 28, 2015 10:23am

Changes in laws won't be effective. Honour killings still continues unhindered except negligible few. Besides it is the mindset of people and who are misguided and thus forced to act on their behalf.

Instead clip the wings of those who are spreading this hatred, nip them at the bud. Ofcourse law must be in place as well.

Ali Awan Oct 28, 2015 10:43am

Why call for improvement in just this one particular law and why not improvement in all the pakistan penal codes???? Kanju was today acquitted by an anti terrorism court in Lahore for murdering a 14 years old orphan, any country wide protest on this blatant mockery of justice?????

ravi vancouver Oct 28, 2015 10:53am

Blasphemy law is required to maintain respect for religions, it is good to improve this law to prevent its misuse.

S. Haider Oct 28, 2015 11:30am

I thank honorable judges of the Supreme Court for this detailed judgement. The members of the National Assembly and the Senate should study this document carefully. In my opinion, it is a plea to reform the law , and "introduce adequate safeguards against the malicious application ", in order to protect the victims of false allegation. The judgement also proposes a wise procedure of handling such allegation at the beginning phase. This proposal is directed towards the Police of Punjab. However, it should be applied in whole Pakistan.

Umi Oct 28, 2015 12:05pm

An educated and balanced council of islamic ideology should be set up to assist police and judiciary to rationally conclude such cases and educate masses on the subject.

SK Oct 28, 2015 12:14pm

The judgement reflects true Islamic way; brave and courageous!

BK Oct 28, 2015 12:53pm

The Highest Judiciary is only hope for common men, but it is difficult them to reach there.

berni Oct 28, 2015 12:55pm

We're still trying to repair damages of martial laws.

Thiagarajan Oct 28, 2015 01:36pm

Pakistan is on the right track now!

Parvez Oct 28, 2015 01:41pm

Its sad that it takes the SC to say what common sense would dictate.......those who misuse the blasphemy law must be equally punishable as if they had committed blasphemy.

Asim Rizvi Oct 28, 2015 01:42pm

Good decision indeed.

Abdul Karim Oct 28, 2015 02:04pm

Improvement?!! Just abolish it, period.

Abdul Karim Oct 28, 2015 02:22pm

So they essentially want to improve and keep the law. Great!

Baba Oct 28, 2015 03:04pm

State is expected to implement the order of the apex court in letter and spirit to further save the innocents by the people who matter to score their personal agenda taking the refuge of the law.

MAlvi Oct 28, 2015 03:28pm

The best change to blasphemy law is to abolish it.

Abdul Karim Oct 28, 2015 03:44pm

No country with basic human values can implement Blasphemy law. It is only counter productive. Abolishing this law will only make us stand good in front of the world and improve the image and status of all Muslims.

Abdul Karim Oct 28, 2015 03:45pm

The longer it stays more innocents will fall into the trap. It's not something we can afford to do gradually. It has to be abolished.

JustWasif Oct 28, 2015 04:05pm

Good detailed decision having a level of guidance

Yemeen ul Islam Zuberi Oct 28, 2015 05:27pm

The law is improved, however, my question is that will the accused get some sort of protection from the accuser, because it's a matter of sentiments, too, and sentiment can make someone blind and force him/her act bazzare.

Quasiintellectual Oct 28, 2015 05:28pm

It is good to know that Pakistani judiciary has shown some sanity in dealing with blasphemy law.

MRS Oct 28, 2015 05:32pm

Pakistan is changing

abdul rehman Oct 28, 2015 08:01pm

@S. Haider "The members of the National Assembly and the Senate should study this document carefully" - they are a bunch of incompetent , don't expect anything good they will do to this country.

Nazir Ahmed Oct 28, 2015 08:02pm

India and Afghanistan are not enemies, but these fundamental elements are the real enemies of Pakistan. They take the country to sea deep abyss.

fahd Oct 29, 2015 04:21pm

Common sense prevails

Iftikhar bhutta Oct 29, 2015 05:42pm

We endorse decision of Supreme Court in murder case of late Suleman Taseer .