Despite medical board's recommendation, 'mentally ill' accused yet to secure bail

In August 2013, a medical board found Waleeha Irfat suffering from mood disorder & needs psychotherapy

Rana Tanveer August 12, 2015
Despite the recommendations made by the medical board, her bail plea, filed on medical grounds and being women under section 497 of Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan, is still pending. DESIGN: JAHANZAIB HAQUE

LAHORE: A 24-year-old woman is still languishing in jail two years years after a court appointed medical board had declared her to be mentally instable.

Waleeha Irfat, a resident of Punjab Housing Society in Lahore, was arrested in March 2012 after a FIR was registered against her under section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code at Factory Area Police Station, Lahore.

A year after her arrest, the court on August 29, 2013, directed a seven member medical board, chaired by the director general health, examine her. “She is found to be suffering from mood disorder (impulsive personality traits),” the board stated in its report, recommending that the accused “needs drug treatment and psychotherapy.”

Following recommendations by the medical board, a bail plea was filed on her behalf citing medical grounds and that she was a woman under section 497 of Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan.

Two years on, the women medical officer at Lahore's Central Jail submitted a letter before Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on August 6, 2015, stating that Irfat’s mental condition had not improved. It detailed that the prisoner was on regular medication with follow-ups from a psychiatrist of the Punjab Institute of Mental Health in Lahore.

The court finally heard the bail plea on August 10, with Irfat’s counsel Asma Jahangir arguing that her client's application had been pending four months without a decision. She claimed that the FIR against Irfat had been registered to blackmail and harass her on the basis of previous enmity with one of the witnesses.

She further argued that one of the prosecution’s witness and the complainant had admitted to not seeing the accused committing blasphemy.

Abdul Munim, a security guard at the housing society where Irfat lived, had told the trial court that one day while he was on duty, he heard a woman screaming. According to Munim, another woman had told him that Irfat had committed blasphemy upon which he called the police.

The counsel further argued that her client was not being treated well in jail.

Prosecution's counsel Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, who appeared in court with a group of religious clerics in tow, contested the bail application. He claimed that the defendant was deliberately delaying the trial by repeatedly changing lawyers.

Upon this, Jahangir said no lawyer is ready to take her case when they find out that she is accused of blasphemy.

Forcing his argument, Advocate Chaudhry recounted details of the allegations which had been levelled against Irfat. The narration prompted recitations of ‘Astagfar’ from the group of men Chaudhry had brought along into the court.

Jahangir requested the court to either rule on the bail application or dismiss it.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the judge reserved the order. However, the court files later revealed that the case had simply been adjourned for a later hearing: “Relist on 20 – 08 – 2015 for further assistance.”


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