LAHORE: Denying post-arrest bail to three members of the Ahmadi community in a case about sharing a distorted version of the Holy Quran in a WhatsApp group, the Lahore High Court has observed that declaring a person may transmit any offensive material if he/she is not its author thereof would be a recipe for disaster.
The cybercrime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Lahore, registered a case on the complaint of Mohammad Irfan that Mahmood Iqbal Hashmi, Shiraz Ahmad and others created a WhatsApp group under the name “Sindh Salamat” for the propagation of the Ahmadi community’s faith.
The complainant said the suspects added him to the group owing to which he was able to track their activities and take screenshots which he annexed with his complaint.
The FIR was registered for offences under Sections 34, 109, 295-A, 295-B, 295-C, 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Section 11 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016.
LHC denies post-arrest bail to the accused belonging to Ahmadi community
After an inquiry, the agency arrested suspects Hashmi and Ahmad while Zaheer Ahmad was arrested at a later stage. The suspects approached the sessions court for bail but their petitions were dismissed.
Advocate Hina Jillani, the counsel for one of the petitioners, argued that the complainant was a religiously motivated person predisposed against the Ahmadis. She said the complainant was already a witness in a case previously registered against two other members of the same community.
She contended that her client neither committed the alleged offence nor had any connection with the other suspects.
The counsel also questioned the competence of the FIR saying the offence under Section 295-A of the PPC could be prosecuted only on the complaint of the federal or the provincial governments. She further argued that Sections 295-A, 295-B and 295-C of the PPC and Section 11 of Peca were not attracted to the facts and circumstances while the other offences did not fall within the prohibitory clause.
Advocate Usman Karimuddin, the counsel for another petitioner, argued that the offence, if any, fell within the ambit of Section 9 of the Punjab Holy Quran (Printing and Recording) Act, 2011. He said since the Quran Act was a special law it overrides the PPC, which was a general law and the FIR could not be registered under sections of the PPC.
A deputy attorney general and a counsel for the complainant opposed the bail petitions.
In his verdict, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh observed that the petitioners created a WhatsApp group and perusal of the screenshots of the conversation between them and other members reflected that its purpose was to provide a platform for the propagation of the Qadiani/Ahmadi faith.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022