May 9th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
A court has acquitted actress Saba Qamar with singer Bilal Saeed in an alleged case of desecration of the historical Wazir Khan Mosque during the shooting of a music video two years ago.
Additional Sessions Judge Mushtaq Ahmed accepted an acquittal application submitted by Saba Qamar and singer Bilal Saeed, ruling that the investigation officer did not present anything in the court to support the allegation that the accused intended to desecrate the mosque.
No evidence of desecration: court
“So, nothing has come to surface that petitioners (Saba Qamar and Bilal Saeed ) played any song at the place of worship, therefore, in my view the charge against the petitioners would be said as groundless and when the charge would be groundless, there would be no need of the trial of the case,” the judge wrote in his eight-page detailed judgment released on May 9.
According to the judgment, Section 295 (relating to injuring or defiling a place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class) is directed against the person who deliberately maliciously insults or attempts to insult in place of worship or any object held sacred by any class of person with the intention of thereby insulting the religious class of person.
“Keeping in view the above-said ingredients for constituting of offense u/s 295 PPC, it is necessary that the person should have the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of person which is missing in the instants case,” the judge said.
No song played at mosque premises
The court observed that the artists went to shoot the song after receiving permission from the requisite authorities and the recording took place under the supervision of concerned department officials. Besides, no song was played during the recording of the song.
“Admittedly, before the recording in the mosque, the requisite fee was deposited and then the entire recording took place under the supervision of the concerned department and according to the terms and conditions of the license, the copy of which is available in the judicial file of the case, according to which the whole arrangements are to be made by the concerned department and during the recording no music is to be played.”
The investigation officer also did not seize any musical instruments allegedly played in the mosque. “In the instant case, nothing was collected by the investigation officer during the investigation of the case to the effect that both petitioners intentionally damage, defile or disrespected place of worship rather they being artists joined the shooting with the prior permission from Auqaf Department and Religious Affair Department, Government of the Punjab, Lahore,” reads the court order.
The prosecution brought no witnesses present during the recording
The court said none of the witnesses mentioned in the charge sheet were physically present on the day of the recording of the video on the mosque premises, adding that all these witnesses were those who had seen the music video clip on social media.
In March, a trial court had rejected their acquittal application saying the case could not be dismissed before the prosecution presented its evidence. The counsels for Saba Qamar and Bilal Saeed approached the sessions court against the trial court order rejecting their acquittal application.
‘Court an acquit at any stage of trial’
In its order, the Additional Sessions Judge Mushtaq Ahmed ruled that a trial court has the power to acquit an accused at any stage of the case under Section 249-A of the PPC.
“Section 249-A has been given the power of acquitting to an accused at any stage of the case if, after hearing the prosecution and accused and for reasons to be recorded, the Court considers that charge against the accused is groundless and there is no probability of conviction of any offense,” reads the court order.
The alleged desecration case was registered on-court direction following an application by a lawyer, Farhat Manzoor Chandio, that the duo had violated the sanctity of the mosque by holding a photoshoot there. Chandio claimed that their actions had hurt the religious sentiments of the citizens. The Akbari Gate police registered a case in August 2020 against both suspects under section 295 of PPC.
The counsels for Saba Qamar and Bilal Saeed had told the trial court that their clients committed no desecration and were involved in the case due to mala fide.
In the music video released in August 2020, Saba Qamar could be seen taking a dance step with singer Bilal Saeed at the Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore. Following the backlash on social media over the music video, Saba Qamar and Bilal Saeed also rendered an apology for unknowingly hurting the sentiments of any viewers.