RAWALPINDI, Feb 6: An appeal of a blasphemer, who had been convicted by the sessions court of Jhelum in 2010, has been moving from one judge of the appellate court to another since 2011.
On Wednesday, an LHC judge, Justice Rauf Ahmed Sheikh, however, dismissed an application filed for the suspension of the sentence of the blasphemy convict under section 426 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
According to the section, the sentence of a convict may be suspended if his appeal was not decided within two years.
A man was booked by Sohawa police of Jhelum district on November 11, 2009 under section 295-B of Pakistan Panel Code for allegedly desecrating the holy Quran.
According to the FIR lodged by a local resident Azizur Rehman, the man, who sold holy Quran, threw the pages of the Quran into a dry well in village Kundpari of Sohawa tehsil.
An additional sessions judge of Jhelum district on June 6, 2010 sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The convict then filed an appeal in the LHC Rawalpindi bench in 2011.
Initially, it was heard by LHC Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, then by Justice Abdul Waheed Khan and Justice Shehzad Ahmed Khan.
On Decmber 13, 2011, Justice Mazhar Iqbal Siddhu heard the arguments of the defence counsel.
On January 12, 2012, the appeal was fixed before Justice Rauf Ahmed Sheikh. On September 24, 2012 it was placed before Justice Ali Baqir Najafi.
Meanwhile, after completion of two years imprisonment, the convict’s counsel barrister Imran Hassan Ali filed an application in the LHC under section 426 of CrPC for suspension of the sentence and release of his client till the final decision on the appeal.
The application was again fixed before Justice Rauf Ahmed Sheikh, who after hearing the arguments dismissed the petition and decided to give his verdict on two-year-old appeal.
In the appeal, the convict’s counsel adopted before the court that Rehman and his client, were both sellers of the holy Quran, and in order to get rid of his business rival, Rehman implicated his client in the blasphemy case.
Advocate Ayaz Sial, the counsel for complainant Rehman, on the other hand told the court that the charges against the blasphemer were true. He requested the court to dismiss the appeal of the convict.
Mr Sial told Dawn that the delay in the case was routine matter. He said recently the LHC took up the appeal against the convictions of 2008 and 2009.
He said the court had examined different aspects of the case to give a clear and comprehensive judgment.
According to human rights activist I. A. Rehman, the trial courts decide blasphemy cases in a hurry.
“After registration of blasphemy case, people start demonstration and agitation aimed at pressurising the court,” he added.
Subsequently, the trial court presided over by the additional sessions judge or senior civil judge decide the matter in haste.
He said in the appellate court the situation was somewhat different, where judges take time to decide the appeal against the conviction in the blasphemy cases.
Owing to this fact, the appeals in the blasphemy cases are piling up in the superior courts and the convicts had to wait for years for the disposal of cases, he added.
According to him, the role of the society was important to govern the direction of these cases.It may be mentioned that in August last year, a Christian girl was implicated in the blasphemy case.
During investigation, it was revealed that the case against her was fabricated by a local cleric who wanted to expel the family from the locality.
The civil society and media also extensively highlighted the issue.
The girl was, however, lucky that the Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court on November 20, 2012 ordered the police to delete her name from the FIR.
In another incident, Industrial Area police booked an aged professor for allegedly authoring a blasphemous book after his nephew had lodged complaint against him in December 2012.
District and Sessions Judge of Islamabad Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan, however, last month scrapped the challan against the accused professor and ordered the police to seek opinion from a PhD scholar on this matter.
The court directed the police to proceed further if the scholar gives his opinion against the professor. But the police never came back to the court to prosecute the poor professor.