January 14th, 2022
By Ahmed Saeed
A three-member bench of the Supreme court of Pakistan has released a blasphemy accused on bail after four years of incarceration. The court noted that the petitioner is entitled to be released on bail as a matter of right, not as a concession.
The petitioner Nadeem Samson was accused of creating a fake Facebook account in the name of another person and posting blasphemous material there.
An FIR was registered against the accused Nadeem Samson under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) including 295A and 295C in November 2017. He was also booked under various sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). The police arrested the accused on the day it registered the FIR.
The accused’s lawyer Saif ul Malook has argued that the petitioner is entitled to be released on bail on the statutory ground of delay in conclusion of trial within a stipulated period of two years starting from the time of arrest in accordance with the 3rd proviso to Section 497(1) CrPC.
However, the state counsel argued that after the expiry of the two-year time period, the trial is being delayed due to the tactics employed by the accused.
The bench comprising Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail allowed the petition.
Accused cannot be blamed for delay in trial: SC
“The petitioner was arrested and detained, in this case, on 24.11.2017. The charge against the petitioner was framed on 03.04.2018. Two prosecution witnesses were recorded on 27.02.2020. Till that date, a continuous period of exceeding two years since the detention of the petitioner in the case had lapsed without conclusion of the trial; therefore, a right to be released on bail had prima facie accrued to the petitioner,” read a six-page judgment authored by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.
The court further noted that after apprising the record of the case it is found that the accused cannot be blamed for delay in the conclusion of the trial till the expiry of the two years of detention of the petitioner on 25.11.2019.
“Any delay attributable to the petitioner after the expiry of the said period is not relevant for determining his right to be released on bail on the statutory ground provided in the 3rd proviso to Section 497(1) CrPC”, the court order said.
Section 497 ensures speedy trial and safeguard against pre-conviction detention
The court further clarifies the extent and scope of 3rd provision of section 497 (1) for clear understanding of, and compliance by all the other courts in the country in terms of Article 189 of the Constitution.
The order said that the purpose and object of the 3rd proviso to Section 497(1) CrPC is to ensure the speedy trial of an accused and to safeguard against the pre-conviction detention of an accused does not extend beyond the period of two years in cases involving an offence punishable with death, or one year in other cases.
“The period of one year or two years, as the case may be, for the conclusion of the trial begins from the date of the detention of the accused in the case, not from the date when the charge is framed and trial commenced”, the court said.
A statutory right to be released on bail accrues in favour of the accused if his trial is not concluded within the specified period, i.e., exceeding one year or two years as the case may be, from the date of his detention.
However, the court rules that the statutory right of the accused to be released on bail is subject to two exceptions (a) the delay in conclusion of the trial is occasioned by an act or omission of the accused or by any other person acting on his behalf, and (b) the accused is a convicted offender for an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life, or is in the opinion of the court a hardened, desperate or dangerous criminal, or is accused of an act of terrorism punishable with death or imprisonment for life.
The court further elaborated that the act or omission on the part of the accused to delay the trial must be the result of a visible concerted effort orchestrated by the accused.