LAHORE: The civil society activists have hailed the Supreme Court decision of granting bail to a man who had been in jail in an alleged blasphemy case for the last four years.

A blasphemy accused, Nadeem Samson, was recently granted bail by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The civil society activists held a meeting at a local hotel to discuss the development.

Advocate Saiful Malook, the counsel for the accused, said the Supreme Court judgement would act as a precedent to help other people arrested under blasphemy charges because most of the time, the courts would dismiss their bail.

He referenced the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 Section 497, which states that if an individual has not been formally charged and the trial has not been concluded within two years and the delay is not due to the accused, they should be granted bail.

Voice of Justice Chairman Joseph Jansen said the majority of blasphemy cases rested on false accusations over property disputes/ personal vendetta/ religious prejudice rather than genuine instances of blasphemy. He said sometimes the allegations would lead to mob violence against the accused or the entire community.

He demanded that all those who incite or engage in violence against others based on allegations of blasphemy should be brought to justice and duly punished.

He said the accused persons would be facing imprisonment for fabricated blasphemy charges and those in pending cases in courts must also be granted bail to let them have access to a fair trial, which includes the right to defence, the right to be tried by an independent and impartial court and of the right to the presumption of innocence.

Bishop Johnson Robert observed that blasphemy laws do not consider the principles of legality and the presumption of innocence, to ascertain the intention of the accused persons as observed in the case of Stephen Masih who is behind the bars for over two years over a fabricated blasphemy accusation despite the reports of the medical board of the Punjab Institute of Medical Health which stated that he suffers from Bipolar Affective Disorder, and he is mentally unfit to stand trial.

He demanded that the honourable courts in Pakistan should hear Stephen Masih’s case on an urgent basis and drop all charges against him on account of false accusation, and his psychosocial disability and health condition.

Alyas Samuel said that the misuse of blasphemy laws have become so common which is exercised as a tool of revenge by making a fabricated accusation against innocent people without bothering about its consequence that the families of the accused have to face as observed in the case of Shagufta Kiran who is facing imprisonment for being a part of a WhatsApp group in which someone else created and shared an allegedly objectionable post. She denies the allegation.

Asif Bastian said it is a practice that the accused persons without committing any blasphemous offence are deprived of their liberty and are made to spend several years in jail. While the complainants and witnesses involved in levelling false allegations of blasphemy against the accused enjoy impunity, the government needs to enforce the existing provisions such as Section 182 of PPC to criminalise perjury, false and malicious accusations.

Ashiknaz Khokhar said that the most people label the blasphemy accused as guilty, and demand their beheading without proper investigation or trial of the case, therefore the government needs to introduce reforms to put in place adequate and effective procedural and institutional safeguards at the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial levels including, inter alia requiring evidence by accusers, ensuring proper investigation by senior police officials, allowing authorities to dismiss unfounded accusations, to ensure that the accused persons are not unjustly punished on the basis of mere allegation.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2022

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