Tuesday May 24, 2022

Death awarded under Section 295-C: Blasphemy convict’s abnormality not same as legal insanity: court

By Amir Riaz
September 29, 2021

LAHORE: The Additional District & Sessions Judge Mansoor Ahmad Qureshi while awarding death sentence to a Muslim woman, Salma Tanveer, accused of blasphemy has held that ‘mental abnormality’ cannot be considered as a mitigating ground for the serious offence.

In his detailed verdict, Additional District & Sessions Judge Mansoor Ahmad Qureshi has held that “the woman was suffering from mental abnormality at the time of writing and distributing the blasphemous material, but it could not be recognised as ‘legal insanity’,” and awarded death sentence to her under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code. “It is evident that the accused (Salma Tanveer) was not free from abnormality, for, otherwise, she would not have written or distributed such derogatory material,” rules Additional District & Sessions Judge Mansoor Ahmad Qureshi in his 22-page verdict.

The judge further noted that “the question, however, that raises for consideration is whether in law such abnormality can be treated as sufficient to exculpate the accused for the serious crime, committed by her, even though it falls short of legal insanity”. The verdict said: “The law in this country does not recognise such lesser form of mental abnormality. In this country, the plea for a diminished responsibility is not available as a defence in a criminal prosecution.” “The term insanity is used to denote that decree of mental illness which negates the individual’s legal responsibility or capacity. “The writings penned by the accused show that these are verbose, but these are not writings by a person who is incapable of knowing the nature, or that he/she is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law,” the judge said.

Salma Tanveer also appeared in the witness box and stated that she believed in Khatam-e-Nubuwwat (Hazrat Muhammad PBUH is the last of the Prophets). But, before Hajj in 2003, she lost her mental balance and she did not know what happened. She also said that if due to her mental illness, she did something wrong unintentionally, she was ashamed of it. She said that under Section 84 of Pakistan Penal Code nothing is an offence which is done by a person of unsound mind. Salma Tanveer is the first Muslim woman who has been awarded death sentence under the blasphemy law.