24th August 2022
By Rehan Piracha
LAHORE: The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to two Christians accused in separate cases of blasphemy, their counsel told Voicepk.net.
A Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, granted bail to Patras Masih, a resident of Lahore, after four and half years of his incarceration in connection with a blasphemy case registered under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, his counsel Saiful Malook told Voicepk.net.
In the second case heard by judges of the same bench, a pastor, Raja Aziz also known by his alias of Raja Waris, also allowed bail after spending 20 months in prison, Saiful Malook said. Raja Aziz was charged in a blasphemy case registered with the Defence Police Station in Lahore. Saiful Malook was the counsel of both accused in separate cases before the bench. Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhary, president of Khatme N’abuvat Lawyers Forum forum appeared for the complainant in the case.
A day earlier on August 23, the Supreme Court had also granted bail to a Christian sanitary worker who was charged in a blasphemy case in 2021.
A Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, granted bail to Salamat Mansha Masih, on furnishing the bail bond of Rs50,000 while hearing an appeal against the June 2022 Lahore High Court order which had turned down his bail plea.
During the bail hearing, the bench observed that it is the responsibility of the State to provide protection to the accused of blasphemy cases until the charge is proven. The State should exercise utmost responsibility in cases of blasphemy, the court observed.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa took note of the tendency of levelling accusations and said every second person raise fingers and blamed others of insulting the religion just like that without realizing that this was not a simple or ordinary offence but carries capital punishment.
Justice Isa raised questions regarding the facts of the case. The judge observed that the incident took place in a park where many people were present but no one including the guard was made a witness in the case. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah also pointed out the contradiction in the First Information Report according to which the accused was a preacher which he was not.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Abdul Hameed Khan Rana, counsel of Salamat Masih, said he pleaded that his client was wrongly accused of committing blasphemy and there was no material evidence available against him. Salamat Masih has been confined at the Lahore district jail since January 4, 2021. Rana termed the SC order a landmark judgment in cases relating to blasphemy whereby accused have been implicated without any evidence. He said Salamat Masih was charged with blasphemy offences of Section 295-A, 295-B and 295-C under the PPC.
Rana said four college students accused Haroon Ayub and Salamat Masih, who were present in the Model Town Park in Lahore at that time, of committing blasphemy while preaching Christianity and also gifted a book in Urdu language that according to the complainant contains sacrilegious matter. “I told the court that the book was the Holy Bible and contained no sacrilegious matter against any religion,” Rana said. He said a senior police officer had also conceded the fact about the book from the prosecution side.
But the counsel argued that the book was related to the Holy Bible and did not contain any sacrilegious matter against any religion – a fact also conceded by the concerned Lahore senior police officer from the prosecution side. Salamat Masih was an employee of the Lahore Waste Management Company.