LHC orders inquiry into missing SIM receipt of Christian couple accused of blasphemy

Two-member bench hears appeal of Christian couple over death row for blasphemy


Hasnaat Malik March 05, 2020
Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has ordered an inquiry into  going missing of a receipt regarding the purchase of SIM in a Christian couple case who is on a death row for committing blasphemy for the last six years.

Shafqat Maseeh, watchman of Gojra’s Saint Cathedral School, and his wife Shagufta Maseeh were arrested on the charge of sending blasphemous text messages to the complainants, shopkeeper Malik Mohammad Hussain and Gojra tehsil bar’s former president Anwar Mansoor Goraya.

On April 4, 2014, additional district and sessions judge in Toba Tek Singh had awarded them capital punishment. They were convicted under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) read with Section 34 of the PPC. They were also directed to pay a fine of Rs100,000 each.

A LHC division bench headed by Justice Malik
Shahzad Ahmad Khan heard the appeals on February 20 filed by convicts. Advocate Saiful Malook, who had pleaded the case of Aasia Bibi, is representing the couple.

The one-page order noted that the receipt for the purchase of the SIM in question was exhibited during the examination but the document was not available on the record of the trial court. Similarly, 94 receipts of the Gojra franchise were also not available in the record, it added.

The high court also ordered the Toba Tek Singh sessions judge to hold an inquiry and furnish the document before it within a month. The court also asked the judge to fix responsibility on delinquent officials if the documents had been misplaced.

The hearing of the case has been adjourned until April 8.

The complaint was filed by Muhammad Hussain — a resident of Gojra. According to Hussain, he had received a text message containing “blasphemous remarks” on July 18, 2013, when he was offering prayers in a mosque. He showed the SMS to his friends — Muhammad Shabbir and Khalid Maqsood.

Later, he approached his counsel for legal proceedings on the basis of the said text message. While he was at the office of his counsel, he received five more text messages.

When the counsel tried to contact the said number, he (the lawyer) also received three to four SMS on his mobile phone. Meanwhile, the police also claimed that both the convicts had confessed to committing blasphemy.

After carrying out investigation, the police submitted a report under Section 173 of CrPC stating that the couple had been involved in the commission of an offence and would face trial.

On April 4, 2014, Shagufta and Masih were convicted and awarded death sentence. Five years ago, the couple had challenged the trial court’s order on several grounds. They contended in their appeal that the witnesses produced by the prosecution during the trial were related to the complainant and were “inimical” towards them.

“So their statements required independent corroboration, which is lacking in this case,” the appeal said.

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