Herald exclusive: What the law says

February 15, 2011

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Pressure point: public protests deter judges and lawyers from providing fair trials to those accused of blasphemy.

Section 295: Harming or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult a religion

Section 295-A: Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any section of society by insulting its religion or religious beliefs

Section 295-B: Defiling the Holy Quran

Section 295-C: Use of derogatory remarks regarding the Holy Prophet of Islam

Section 296: Disturbing religious assembly

Section 297: Trespassing on burial places

Section 298: Uttering words with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings

Section 298-A: Use of derogatory remarks regarding holy personages

Section 298-B: Misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles reserved for certain holy personages or places

Section 298-C: Person of Ahmadi group calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith

Out of all these laws, only Section 295-C – use of derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet of Islam – carries the death penalty. Others carry various punishments including imprisonment and fines.

Section 295-C is different from other blasphemy laws in another respect. Section 196 (prosecution of offences against the State) of the Criminal Procedure Code bars courts from taking cognisance of certain offences unless the complaint is made on the order of, or under authority from, the government, presumably so that laws governing such offences are not misused. After Section 295-A was introduced in the PPC in 1927, Section 196 was amended to cover it as well. But such a course was not adopted when Section 295-C was introduced, thereby allowing the courts to take cognisance of crimes under this section without requiring the government’s order or authority.