The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday acquitted a man accused of committing blasphemy after pointing out ‘serious’ discrepancies in the prosecution’s assertions against him.
The single-judge bench hearing the case observed that the prosecution’s account seemed to hinge upon conjectures and surmises.
It held that the complainant, a journalist affiliated with an Urdu language daily, “used to visit the police station in connection with the investigation of certain cases being conducted by the accused (SHO of the police station).”
When the SHO refused to favour a party in an ongoing investigation as per the journalist’s wishes, the latter charged the SHO for uttering derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) at the station.
The journalist, after returning from the police station, made an announcement in the mosque and narrated the incident to 65 notables of the area. Later, he submitted an application to the DPO Kasur who registered an FIR against the SHO and arrested him.
The accused had subsequently challenged his trial court sentence in the LHC, while the complainant sought an enhancement of the sentence from life imprisonment to death.
The SHO’s counsel submitted before the LHC that the police had sought a fatwa from Jamia Naeemia, which categorically said that in view of the evidence available on record, the offence of blasphemy was not established. The counsel added that even the police had listed his client as innocent in its challan.
Furthermore, the SHO’s argued that the complainant had himself admitted before the trial court that the application against the SHO had been written by some of his friends.
The counsel also questioned the manner in which the trial court had convicted his client, claiming that it had not referred to real facts of the case and law on the subject. The prosecution witnesses, he calimed, too were biased
Due to these allegations, the accused had to spend six years and five months in jail after being fined Rs200,000 and sentenced to life in prison and by a trial court.
“This court is of the firm view that in these circumstances, to maintain the sentence as implemented by the trial court would be against the cannons of safe administration of justice especially when none of the complainant, nor did the prosecution witness have adequate Islamic knowledge to be tested upon the touchstone of Tazkiatul Shahood.
“Hence, this cannot be considered as legal evidence to connect the accused with the commission of offence and the trial court was not justified in convicting him based on such inconsistent evidence which is full of material contradictions,” the judge observed in his order.
The judge directed that the appellant be acquitted of the charge under section 295-C of PPC and be released forthwith if not required in any other case.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2015.