SC acquits blasphemy accused

Published August 16, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Aug 15: The Supreme Court on Monday acquitted Ayub Masih, a Christian from Punjab, who was awarded death penalty on the charges of blasphemy.

A three-judge bench, after hearing senior Supreme Court lawyer Abid Hasan Minto and Additional Advocate-General Punjab Tariq Khokar, on Thursday set aside the judgment of the Lahore High Court.

The court in its short order stated that the detailed reasons to be recorded later, the impugned judgment of the Lahore High Court, was set aside.

Ayub Masih, 25, was charged with blasphemy under the Section 295 (C) on the compliant of Mohammad Akram on Oct 14, 1996, after over seven hours of the alleged utterances which he said against Islam and the holy Prophet (PBUH).

Ayub, however, vehemently denied that he had uttered any blasphemous words and stated that he had been implicated in a false case as the complaint wanted to grab his plot of land.

The Sessions Judge, Sahiwal, had awarded death sentence to the accused on April 27, 1998, after holding the trial in the Sahiwal jail.

Bishop John Joseph of Faisalabad had committed suicide outside the District and Session Judge, Sahiwal, after hearing the judgment. Earlier, the bishop had led a procession of Christians to protest against the blasphemy law.

The Lahore High Court, Multan Bench, which had heard the appeal of Ayub Masih against his conviction, had confirmed his death on July 24, 2001.

The Supreme Court bench consisted of Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui, Justice Qazi Muhammad Farooq, and Justice Mian Muhammad Ajmal.

Abid Hassan Minto, counsel for the petitioner, stated before the court that the complainant, Mohammad Akram, wanted to grab the plot of land on which Ayub Masih and his father were residing.

After implicating Ayub in a false case, he managed to grab the seven-marla plot on which Ayub was residing.

It was brought on the record of the court that soon after the arrest of Ayub Masih, the complainant, Mohammad Akram, forcibly occupied his house in Chak No-352, falling in the jurisdiction of Arifwala Police Station.

It was also brought on the record that the complainant had filed an application to the Director of Colonies, Punjab, for the allotment of the plot to him. The plot was allotted accordingly and the piece of land was also transferred to the complainant. The patwari of the area also confirmed that the land was transferred to Mohammad Akram.

The counsel stated that the challan was submitted after the transfer of the land to the name of the complaint.

Mr Minto argued that offence of blasphemy was governed by the Islamic Law of Hadd, as decided by the Federal Shariat Court in Ismail Qureshi case.

The FSC, he argued, had declared that Section 295 (C) of the PPC which provided alternative punishment other than death for the offence of blasphemy, was un-Islamic and had directed the legislature to amend the provision accordingly.

The counsel stated that under the Constitution if the judgment of the FSC was not challenged till a certain period, than it became a law.

Mr Minto said that the evidence on which the judgments of District and Sessions Judge, Sahiwal, and Lahore High Court, were based, was not legally admissible, as it had not been tested on the principles of Tazkiyatul Shahood.

The Supreme Court was also informed that Ayub in his statement under Section 342 of CrPC had stated that he could not think of committing the blasphemy as he had studied in an ordinary school till Matric, where he also studied Islamiat.

Barrister Tariq Khokar, additional Advocate-General of Punjab, opposed the request for acquittal and argued that the LHC judgment should be upheld.

The law officer argued that the offence of blasphemy did not fall under the Hadd as neither the holy Quran nor Sunnah, prescribed the punishment for blasphemy.

Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui, head of the bench, observed that if “we apply Mohammedan Law, then we would have to apply it in its totality and not in pieces.”

The AAG of Punjab argued that the FCS was neither the Quran nor Sunnah. “Any other institution or person, if it purports to ordain a punishment as Hadd, was erroneous,” he observed.

He argued that Section 295(C) was intact and the option of alternative punishment, was available to the court.

The court, however, asked him to concede on certain points which he refused and asked the court to decide as everything was before it.

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