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Blasphemy, Investigation & Adjudication

Often when there is a “mob justice” in matters relating to blasphemy, the whole debate rests on condemning the mob and demanding the justice for the victim of a mob and suggesting to take the legal course in such cases. In cases, where mob either fails or take the legal course, there is a lot to look into.  Following Mashal’s Lynching, 6 cases of blasphemy were registered in KP alone. Either in these cases, mob failed to deliver “justice” or simply followed the legal course. In February 2017 Lahore high court vide 2017 LHC 939 has settled a case by setting asid e a conviction and sentence on blasphemy charges u/s 295-A & 295-C of PPC. This case is interesting in a manner that it gives us an example of our justice system in blasphemy cases. We often blame public for taking law in their hands and very conveniently fail to look into the affairs of protectors of the law.

In July 2009, a case was registered in District Chakwal on blasphemy allegations u/s 295-A & 295-C of PPC. An Additional Sessions Judge in 2012 convicted the accused and sentenced 10 years of imprisonment under 295-A & Death sentence with two Lakh fine under 295-C. The Accused appealed against his conviction and the complainant filed a criminal revision. Considering insufficient punishment awarded, the complainant asked to impose the fine in addition to 10 years imprisonment for an offence under 295-A and also to increase the fine in addition to already awarded death sentence & two lakh fine under 295-C. A sub-inspector mainly conducted this investigation and during trial admitted that u/s 156-A of Cr.P.C is not authorised to investigate any case registered u/s 295-C. He said that SHO – Inspector assigned him this investigation. The concerns Superintendent of Police (SP) partially participated in the investigation and also appeared in the trial. During the trial, SP admitted that any case under 295-C can not be investigated by any officer below the rank of SP. Despite that, not only investigation started but completed under his watch. SP visited the place of incident and yet failed to take primary responsibility for investigation as required by section 156-A of Cr.P.C. Apparently, he willfully let a subordinate and an unauthorised officer to carry out an investigation which is exclusively mandated to him by law. SP didn’t record any statement of witnesses. During trial, SP admitted that if a complaint under 295-A is received than FIR can be registered only after permission from Govt. in the instant case, SHO didn’t even bother to inform his superiors about receiving a complaint so he could seek approval to register FIR and SP moved on the case when the process was in complete violation of the stated law. LHC Judgment noted that “both procedural mandates have been violated” thus “the basic step by means of which investigation agency was put into motion by a private person is violative of the provisions 156-A & 196 of Cr.P.C”.

With Police has completed its investigation in complete violation of the stated law, the case landed in the court of Additional Sessions Judge. Shouldn’t judge have contested the investigation, after all this investigation was to be the base of a capital punishment? Disregarding this complete violation of the stated law, Judge proceeded to convict the accused and then sentenced to death. LHC  a decade ago in 200 P Cr. L J902 has already confirmed that violations of section 196 Cr. P.C is not a curable irregularity and that this section is a mandatory provision. Despite having forcefully stated Law & precedent, learned Additional Sessions Judge went on to award capital punishment. In 2002 LHC in its judgment direct IGP that cases under blasphemy shall be investigated by at least 2 gazetted officer and the court of trial shall be presided over by a judge not less than the rank of District and Sessions Judge. Yet, years after, we fail to institute such express provisions and directions and we are putting people’s lives at risk and killing their fundamental rights. Referring to the directions of LHC in 2002, the bench “noted with great pain that even in the case registered in the year 2009, the investigation agency has not bothered to take any guidance from the principles laid down therein and for that reason, the investigation, in this case, was not conducted in efficient and perfect manner.”

Why should a person give his life for the incompetence of our Investigation & adjudication? Or even suffer a suspension of his fundamental rights? Can this total disregard of stated law and precedent in instant case be due to public pressure, incompetence or simply lack of the knowledge? We can hope that concerned quarters check that currently, all pending cases involving blasphemy charges are in due compliance of law and the directions of LHC so the accused may enjoy a fair and lawful trial.   

 

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Yasir Cheema

Yasir Cheema is a Civil Engineer by training and currently working as Resident Engineer for Surbana Jurong Pte. Ltd. in Singapore. He writes at this portal about Governance, Public policy, Institutional development, Construction practices, and procedures.

1 comment so far

AnonymousPosted on 12:09 am - Sep 6, 2017

Good job bro 👍

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