ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court will take up on Tuesday (Jan 29) a petition moved to seek review of the Oct 31, 2018 verdict of acquitting Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was awarded death sentence in a blasphemy case.

The review petition filed by Qari Muhammad Salaam pleads the apex court to maintain the capital punishment awarded by the trial court to Aasia Bibi.

Qari Salaam is a prayer leader of a mosque who lives in a village in Nankana Sahib tehsil and had lodged the FIR about the alleged blasphemy incident.

The bench which will take up the review petition will be headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and also comprise Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

On Oct 31 last year, a five-judge Supreme Court bench had reversed the judgements of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and the trial court thus setting aside the conviction and death sentence awarded to Aasia Bibi, accused of committing blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman in Sheikhupura in June 2009.

The review petition pleads that the prosecution has proved its case through independent and confidence-inspiring evidence and that the accused confessed to her guilt.

During the trial, the petition contends, the accused did not utter a single word in her defence and she was rightly convicted and sentenced by the trial court.

Moreover, the presence of the accused and the eyewitnesses in the ‘Falsa field’ (where the argument between Aasia Bibi and a Muslim woman had taken place) was not denied by the accused and there was no contradiction in the statements of the prosecution witnesses, the petition says. The trial court has rightly convicted and sentenced the accused and that order was also upheld by the LHC, it adds.

In the detailed judgement on acquitting Aasia Bibi of all charges, the Supreme Court had highlighted that it was a well-settled principle of law that one who made an assertion had to prove it and thus the onus rested on the prosecution to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt throughout the trial.

The judgement recalled that since 1990, 62 people had been murdered as a result of blasphemy allegations even before trial. And even prominent figures who stressed the fact that the blasphemy laws have been misused by some individuals have met with serious repercussions.

The judgement said that the latest example of misuse of this law was the murder of Mashal Khan, a student of the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, who in April, 2017 was killed by a mob on the premises of the university merely due to an allegation that he had posted blasphemous content online.

The judgement stated that it was not for individuals or a gathering (mob) to decide whether any act falling within the purview of Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code had been committed or not because it was the mandate of the court to make such decisions after conducting a fully qualified trial on the basis of credible evidence.

Presumption of innocence remained throughout the case until the prosecution on the evidence satisfied the court beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty of the offence alleged against him, the verdict said.

There could not be a fair trial, which was itself the primary purpose of criminal jurisprudence, if the judges had not been able to clearly elucidate the rudimentary concept of the standard of proof that prosecution must meet in order to obtain a conviction, the judgement stated.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2019

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