ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, on Wednesday reserved its decision on a Punjab government petition seeking review of its Feb 6 judgement that overturned appellant Mubarak Ahmad Sani’s conviction on charges of distributing ‘proscribed literature’.

At the last hearing of the government’s review petition, the SC had sought assistance of the Council of Islamic Ideology, religious scholars and institutions on the matter after the decision of overturning the Lahore High Court verdict in the case stirred a controversy and malicious campaign against CJP Isa.

A heavy contingent of anti-riot police was deputed outside the apex court building, where a number of clerics and their supporters gathered and chanted religious slogans after their appearance before the court.

The court had earlier issued not­ices to CII, Jamia Darululoom, Kara­chi; Jamia Imdadia, Faisalabad; Jamia Naeemia, Karachi; Jamia Muhammadia Ghousia, Bhera; Jamia Salafia, Faisalabad; Jamia Tul Muntazir, Lahore, Jamia Urwat-ul-Wusqa, Lahore; Quran Academy, Lahore; and Al-Mawrid, Lahore, with direction to furnish concise statements on the SC verdict in the Mubarak Ahmad Sani case.

Religious scholars tell apex court no one would ever approve of destroying a girls’ school

Objections to individuals’ audience

Inside the courtroom, the three-member bench asked representatives of different institutions to present their points of view one by one.

However, several religious scholars objected to the appearance of Dr Ammar Khan Nasir from Al-Mawrid, Lahore, on the grounds that he was appearing on his own without any authorisation from the institution. After seeking consensus among themselves, the court decided that the right of audience would not be granted to individuals, except those representing and having authorisation of their institutions.

Interestingly, Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, one of the three bench members, at one point during the hearing recited Kalma and observed that all three judges sitting on the bench were Muslims and believe in the oneness of Allah Almighty and the finality of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

The CJP also mentioned the arson attack on a girls’ middle school in the Shakhimar village, Razmak tehsil of North Waziristan, on Tuesday.

At this, a Jamia Naeemia representative clarified that no religious scholar would ever approve of setting fire to girls’ school, rather seminaries inculcate religious education among girls.

Mr Sani, the appellant, faced charges of distributing literature that could “hurt religious sentiments”.

He was named as an accused in an FIR registered under Sections 295-B (Defiling, etc., of Holy Quran) and 298-C (Person of Quadiani group, etc., calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith) of the Pakistan Penal Code, as well as Section 9(1A) of the Punjab Holy Quran (Printing and Recording) Act, 2011, in Chiniot on Dec 6, 2022.

On June 24, 2023, the trial court framed charges against him. He filed an application for deletion of the charge before the trial court, but it was dismissed on Sept 25. He then challenged the order before the Lahore High Court, but the LHC also dismissed his plea on Oct 16. Later, he challenged the high court’s order through a criminal petition before the Supreme Court, which was allowed on Feb 6.

However, the SC order stirred a controversy as not only it drew a strong reaction from religious circles, but also resulted in the filing of a review petition by the Punjab government that sought certain modifications in the judgement.

The provincial government in its review petition, moved through Additional Prosecutor General Ahmad Raza Gilani, argued that it was aggrieved by the SC judgement since the conclusions were based on an “erroneous assumption of the material facts”. While closing the daylong proceedings on Wednesday, the CJP observed: “We will decide the case after deliberations and if need be, we may assemble again to seek further explanation and assistance.”

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2024

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