LHC to hear five-year-old blasphemy case soon

Christian couple contends they were framed by their neighbour, complainant


Hasnaat Malik February 19, 2019
PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) is all set to hear a five-year-old plea of a Christian couple on death row for committing blasphemy soon.

On April 4, 2014, Shagufta Kousar and Shafqat Masih were awarded death sentence under Section 295 –C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) read with Section 34 of the PPC by Toba Tek Singh additional sessions judge.

They were also directed to pay Rs100,000 fine each and in default, they would further undergo six months’ imprisonment.

Both are also convicted and sentenced under Section 201 of the PPC read with Section 34 of the PPC for one year each and they have also been convicted and sentenced under Section 25 of the Telegraph Act read with Section 34 of the PPC for one year each.

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FIR

Complainant Muhammad Hussain is a resident of Gojra. On July 18, 2013, when he was offering Taraveeh prayers at a mosque, he received an SMS from mobile number 0303-9445368. The SMS contained blasphemous remarks. He showed the SMS to his friends - Muhammad Shabbir and Khalid Maqsood. Thereafter, he approached his counsel for legal proceedings on the basis of the said SMS. While sitting in the office of the council, he received five more SMS. When the counsel tried to contact the number, he (lawyer) also received three to four SMS on his mobile phone.

Police investigation

The police claim that both the convicts confessed to committing blasphemy. After the investigation, police submitted the report under Section 173 CrPC, declaring that the couple were involved in the commission of an offence and would face trial. On the conclusion of the trial, the couple, on April 4, 2014, were convicted and awarded death sentence.

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Convicts challenge trial court’s order in LHC

Five years ago, the couple challenged the trial court’s order on many grounds. The appeal contends that the witnesses produced by the prosecution during the trial were related to the complainant and were ‘inimical’ towards the couple. “They are not only interested and related witnesses but also ‘inimical’. Their statements require independent corroboration, which is lacking in this case,” says the appeal.

Motive

The convicts claimed that the motive behind the registration of the case was that about eight to nine months prior, a minor quarrel took place between their children and their neighbours, who developed a grudge against them. Shagufta was working at the Bishop Compound and the copy of her National Identity Card was available in the record of the Bishop Compound, where the said neighbour was also working. He succeeded in obtaining the copy of her NIC and purchased the alleged SIM on her name and later misused the said SIM and forwarded the alleged SMS to the complainant, who was collusive with their neighbour.

Prosecution story

The prosecution claimed that the alleged SIM was purchased by Shagufta along with her husband from a JAZZ franchise.

However, the convicts are denying by saying that the husband is a disabled person since long and could not move or walk on his legs. Likewise, they contend that there is no evidence that they purchased the SIM from the Jazz franchise, adding that the convicts are illiterate persons and could not write the alleged SMS, which was written in English alphabets.

Grounds of appeal

The five-year-old appeal contended that Section 196 CrPC has not been followed as the FIR was lodged by a private person, who was not competent authority or duly authorised by the central or provincial governments.

It is also stated that the evidence produced by the prosecution is “discrepant, shaky and not worth reliance”. Likewise, the appeal states that the trial court did not appreciate the defence version in its true prospective, which resulted in grave miscarriage of justice. “The learned judge has based his judgement on surmises and conjectures instead of solid evidence,” it adds.

Case status

After the passage of five years, the appeal was fixed before the LHC division bench led by Justice Aalia Neelum on February 7, but the same was left over. It is learned that the matter will be relisted soon. The family members of the couple are considering to request Saiful Malook Advocate to plead their case before the LHC. The same counsel successfully argued the blasphemy case of Aasia Bibi, who was acquitted by the apex court last year.

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