An additional district and sessions judge has postponed a man’s trial for alleged blasphemy and sent him to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health for treatment.
Judge Syed Imran Ali based the decision on a medical board’s opinion that the defendant is a schizophrenic and not fit to stand trial. The defendant allegedly sent text messages to people containing derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The defence counsel had filed an application, along with a report of the Punjab Institute of Mental Health Sciences, seeking the postponement of the trial and release of his client on grounds of insanity.
The counsel for the complainant had also filed an application, objecting to the medical report on the grounds that it had no official authority. The court had then set up a medical board to assess the mental state of the accused.
Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the complainant’s counsel, also objected to this report, saying it was merely a copy of the earlier report. While questioning Dr Tahir Pervaiz, who treated the accused and was a member of the board, Chaudhry noted that the board had prepared no minutes of its meetings, nor did it have a list of questions it asked of the accused.
Asked how the board had established that the accused was a schizophrenic, Dr Pervaiz said that the diagnosis required no special equipment, but was based on discussions with the accused. He said that the members of the board had reached their diagnosis through consensus. He said that he was treating the accused and there had been no significant improvement in his mental health.
The court accepted the application filed on behalf of the accused under Sections 465 and 466 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which detail how a court is to handle instances where the accused appears to be of unsound mind. The complainant’s application was dismissed.
However, the judge did not accept the defence counsel’s plea for the accused to be released into his father’s custody. The judge said that keeping in view the gravity of the allegations and the sensitivity of the case, he had a strong apprehension that the defendant’s life was under threat. The defendant had been allowed not appear in person from the trial since January 23, 2012, because of fears he would murdered if he showed up in court.
The court ordered that the accused be admitted to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health for treatment. He directed the institute’s director to inform the court when the accused becomes fit to stand trial, upon which he would be sent to the district jail.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.