Call for reforms in Blasphemy Laws, does not amount to Blasphemy ; Pak SC [Read Jt]
If the asserted religious motivation of the appellant for the murder committed by him by taking the law in his own hands is to be accepted as a valid mitigating circumstance in this case then a door shall become open for religious vigilantism which may deal a mortal blow to the rule of law in this country where divergent religious interpretations abound and tolerance stands depleted to an alarming level, the Supreme Court of Pakistan said while dismissing the Appeal.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has held that criticism or suggesting reforms of existing blasphemy laws does not constitute a blasphemy. The court made this observation while dismissing the appeal filed by Mumtaz Qadri, who gunned down Salmaan Taseer, a provincial governor, because of Mr.Taseer’s outspoken views on the country’s blasphemy laws. Qadri was sentenced to death for murder and terrorism in 2011, and the Supreme Court upheld both conviction.
What provoked Qadri ?
The appellant contended that, after conviction and sentence of one Mst. Asia Bibi, a Christian lady, in some case for committing the offence of blasphemy Mr. Salman Taseer had paid a visit to that lady inside a jail and on that occasion and said that Mst. Asia Bibi had been convicted not under any law introduced by the Quaid-i-Azam or Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto but under a law promulgated by Zia-ul-Haq which was a black law, according to his own inquiries Mst. Asia Bibi was innocent in the matter. He also added that immediately before the incident which led to his death, Qadri had said to Mr. Salman Taseer that it was unbecoming of him as a Governor to have remarked about the blasphemy law as black law upon which Mr. Salman Taseer had responded by saying that “Not only that it is black law, but also it is my shit” which response was also blasphemous and the same had gravely and suddenly provoked the appellant.
Legal Justification of murder (Contentions)
According to the appellant, he is legally justified in his Act of murder, due to following reasons.
- Commission of blasphemy by Mr. Salman Taseer had provoked the appellant and as the murder of Mr. Salman Taseer had been committed on account of serious provocation offered by the victim, therefore, the appellant’s case attracted some general and special exceptions recognized by the Pakistan Penal Code and, thus, his action did not fall within the purview of section 302(b), PPC.
- Being a devout Muslim the appellant was under a religious and moral, and hence legal, obligation to kill an apostate who had committed the offence of blasphemy, particularly when the State had failed to take any legal action against the offender.
- Committing blasphemy is a grave offence in Islam and if a Muslim commits the murder of a person guilty of committing blasphemy then he commits no offence at all and he cannot be punished for the murder committed by him
Unjustified killing of another human being grave sin
The court observed that the issue involved in this case is not as to whether anybody is allowed to commit blasphemy by defiling the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or not or as to whether a person committing blasphemy can be killed by another person on his own or not but the real question involved in the present case is as to whether or not a person can be said to be justified in killing another person on his own on the basis of an unverified impression or an unestablished perception that such other person has committed blasphemy. The Court further said that the appellant should have paid heed to those warnings of Almighty Allah as well before an unjustified killing of another on the sole basis of hearsay. An unjustified killing of a human being has been declared by Almighty Allah as murder of the entire mankind.
Criticism of Blasphemy Law not a Blasphemy
When the Court observed that Salman Taseer had never, directly or indirectly, made any observation about the Holy Prophet Muhammad so as to attract the definition of blasphemy contained in section 295-C, PPC, It was argued on behalf of the appellant that it is not just defiling the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad which constitutes blasphemy but criticizing the law regarding blasphemy is also blasphemous the alleged utterances. The Court observed that any call for reform of the law regarding the offence of blasphemy ought not to be mistaken as a call for doing away with that law and it ought to be understood as a call for introducing adequate safeguards against malicious application or use of that law by motivated persons. The court further remarked “Commission of blasphemy is abhorrent and immoral besides being a manifestation of intolerance but at the same time a false allegation regarding commission of such an offence is equally detestable besides being culpable. If our religion of Islam comes down heavily upon commission of blasphemy then Islam is also very tough against those who level false allegations of a crime. It is, therefore, for the State of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to ensure that no innocent person is compelled or constrained to face an investigation or a trial on the basis of false or trumped up allegations regarding commission of such an offence.”
Religious motivation for murder, not a mitigating factor
The Court observed that it was not just the alleged commission of blasphemy by Mr. Salman Taseer which prompted the appellant to kill him but there was some element of personal hatred for Mr. Salman Taseer which too had played some part in propelling the appellant into action against him. Such mixture of personal hatred with the asserted religious motivation had surely diluted, if not polluted, the acclaimed purity of the appellant’s purpose, the court said. The court also observed that, throughout the world a police officer committing a crime is dealt with more sternly in the matter of his sentence than an ordinary person because an expectation is attached with a police officer that in all manner of circumstances he would conduct himself strictly in accordance with the law and under no circumstances he would take the law in his own hands. The Court remarked “The usual wages for the crimes of the nature committed by the appellant is death and in the circumstances of this case the appellant deserves no less”. The court also added that If the asserted religious motivation is to be accepted as a valid mitigating circumstance, there will be serious consequences. The Court said “a door shall become open for religious vigilantism which may deal a mortal blow to the rule of law in this country where divergent religious interpretations abound and tolerance stands depleted to an alarming level.”
Read the Full Text of Judgment here.