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Saturday May 25, 2024

Mubarak Sani case: SC accepts plea for verdict revision, issues notices for 26th

The chief justice said a notice would have to be issued for clarification in revision

By Sohail Khan
February 24, 2024
A general view of the Pakistan Supreme Court is pictured in Islamabad. — AFP/File
A general view of the Pakistan Supreme Court is pictured in Islamabad. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) Friday issued notices to the parties for February 26 while accepting a petition for verdict revision, filed by the Punjab government in Mubarak Ahmad Sani case.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, heard the revision request of the Punjab government. Additional Prosecutor General Punjab Ahmed Raza Gillani submitted before the court that Article 20 of the Constitution was not fully explained in paragraph number nine of the Mubarak Sani case’s verdict. He said that due to lack of explanation in the court decision, a wrong impression was taken. At this, the chief justice said when Article 20 was mentioned, there was no need for explanation.

The CJP, addressing the counsel for the Punjab government, said “if you say, then we explain that according to Article 20, religious freedom is subject to public order and morality”.

The chief justice said a notice would have to be issued for clarification in revision.

Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing till February 26 after issuing a notice to the attorney general and other parties on the review of the Punjab government.

The Punjab prosecutor general had filed a review petition under Article 188 of the Constitution seeking recalling of the apex court order, passed on February 6 whereby the court had allowed the appeals of Mubarak Ahmed Sani and the order passed by the Lahore High Court on October 16, 2023 was set aside.

The Punjab prosecutor general sought modification of the judgment on the ground that in para 9 of the judgment, the findings of the apex court regarding Article 20 of the of the Constitution needed to be modified to the extent that the rights of citizens as envisaged under the said Article are not absolute and subject to law, morality and public order.

It was prayed that the Supreme Court may kindly review and modify the judgment under review in the interest of justice.

A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Musarat Hilali had issued written order in the petition filed by Mubarak Ahmed Sani against the orders dated 16-10-2023and 27-11-2023, respectively of the Lahore High Court, Lahore passed in Crl. Revision No. 68011/2023 and Crl. Misc. No. 41772-B/2023).

The petitioner sought the deletion of certain charges from the charge framed against him. He was charged for three offences pursuant to the case arising out of FIR No. 661/22 registered against him on 6 December 2022, at Police Station Chenab Nagar, District Chiniot.

The three offences for which the petitioner is charged were under: (a) Section 7, read with Section 9 of the Punjab Holy Quran (Printing and Recording) Act, 2011, (b) under Section 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (‘PPC’), and (c) under Section 295-B of the PPC. 2.

It was alleged in the FIR that the petitioner was distributing/disseminating a proscribed book – Tafseer-e-Sagheer.

The Supreme Court had noted in its judgment that Clause (a) of Article 20 of the Constitution stipulates that, “every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion” and clause (b) of Article 20 states that, “every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions”.

The court had also noted that Article 22 of the Constitution requires and prescribes that, “no religious community or denomination shall be prevented from providing religious instruction for pupils of that community or denomination in any educational institution maintained wholly by that community or denomination”.

“If only the functionaries of the State had heeded the Holy Qur’an, considered the Constitution and examined the law then the FIR would not have been registered in respect of the abovementioned offences”, the court had held.

The court held that the Constitution stipulates that a person cannot be charged for something which was not an offence when it was done adding that Article 12(1) of the Constitution stipulates that: “No law shall authorise the punishment of a person- (a) for an act or omission that was not punishable by law at the time of the act or omission;

“or (b) for an offence by a penalty greater than, or of a kind different from, the penalty prescribed by law for that offence at the time the offence was committed.

“Therefore, since in the year 2019 the distribution/dissemination of a proscribed book was not an offence, the petitioner could not have been charged for it”, the court had held.

As regards the offences under sections 298-C and 295-B of the PPC for which the petitioner is also charged his learned counsel submits that neither the FIR nor the police report (challan), submitted after investigation by the police, allege that the petitioner had done any of the acts mentioned therein to constitute these offences.

The court had converted the Criminal Petition for Leave to Appeal into an appeal and allowed by setting aside the impugned order and by deleting Section 7, read with Section 9 of the Punjab Holy Quran (Printing and Recording) Act, 2011 and Section 298-C and 295-B of the PPC from the charge framed against the petitioner.

The court had held that though the petitioner has not been charged under Section 5 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932, it could be contended that its ingredients were mentioned in the FIR and in the charge, therefore, the charge could be altered under Section 227 of the code and the trial could continue as the alteration would not prejudice the petitioner.

The court had noted that the petitioner is no longer being treated in accordance with the law because while waiting for the conclusion of his trial he has remained imprisoned for a period much longer than what he could have been punished for if he is found guilty.

The court had ordered that the petitioner be immediately released upon provision of a personal bond in the sum of five thousand rupees in respect of the case arising out of the abovementioned FIR No. 661/22. C.

Shahzad Shaukat, President, Syed Ali Imran, Secretary and the 26th Executive Committee of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) have vehemently denounced the unjustified criticism and malicious campaigns concerning the interpretation of the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in case no. Crl PNo 1054- & 1344-L of 2023 titled “Mubarak Ahmed Sani vs the State,” authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Chief Justice of Pakistan.

In a statement issued here, they expressed grave concern over the baseless allegation and the ignorance of related laws, as the judgment in question aligns entirely with the provisions of the constitution, relevant statutes and Islamic injunctions. It is imperative to clarify that the SCBA and the entire legal fraternity of Pakistan are deeply committed to our religious beliefs, duties, responsibilities, and boundaries, they said. They further said that the judgment under question contains no elements that could be construed as blasphemous. It is outrageous to level such accusations without carefully considering the judgment in light of constitutional provisions, statutes, and Islamic laws. They called upon everyone to read the judgment carefully and to abstain from making unfounded allegations of blasphemy. “Let us not allow any petty political agendas to overshadow the principles of justice and religious tolerance”, they said adding that it is the duty of all the law enforcement agencies concerned to come forward and take strict action against those who are maligning the judiciary and are involved in such malicious propaganda so that no one ever dare level such malicious accusations against anyone.