Lahore woman sentenced to death for blasphemy

    A sessions court on Monday handed down death penalty to a Muslim woman on blasphemy charge under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

    “It is proved beyond reasonable doubt that accused Salma Tanveer wrote and distributed the writings which are derogatory in respect of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and she failed to prove that her case falls in exception provided by section 84 of PPC,” Additional District & Sessions Judge Mansoor Ahmad Qureshi stated in his 22-page verdict.

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    Section 84 deals with the offences committed by a person of unsound mind.

    Nishtar Colony police had registered the FIR on Sept 2, 2013, against the woman on the complaint of Qari Iftikhar Ahmad Raza, a prayer leader of a local mosque.

    The woman’s counsel, Muhammad Ramzan, had argued that the suspect was of unsound mind at the time of occurrence. He said the magistrate concerned had ordered mental examination of the suspect which remained pending without any fault on the part of the suspect.

    The defence counsel further argued that the comparison of writing from photocopies was not possible as tampering had been made in the photocopies of the alleged documents.

    A state prosecutor, Sadia Arif, assisted by Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the counsel for the complainant, submitted before the court that the prosecution proved its case on the basis of oral and documentary evidence.

    She said the suspect failed to prove that at the time of writing and distributing blasphemous material she was incapable of knowing the nature of her act.

    The prosecution presented 11 witnesses including the complainant and police officials.

    The judge, after going through the statements of the witnesses and their cross- examination, observed that the oral and material evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that the suspect wrote and distributed the writings attributed to her.

    The judge noted that a report of a medical board of the Punjab Institute of Mental Health termed the suspect fit to stand trial.

    The judge remarked that the record showed that the woman was running her school single-handedly till her arrest. Therefore, the woman could not be stated to be suffering from legal insanity.

    The judge further observed that it was evident that the suspect was not free from abnormality, otherwise, she would not have written and distributed such derogatory material.

    “The question, however, that arises 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,” held the judge.

    The judge ruled that the law in the country did not recognise such lesser forms of mental abnormality and the plea of diminished responsibility was not available as a defence in a criminal prosecution.

    The verdict found beyond any doubt that the suspect woman wrote and distributed the derogatory writings and failed to prove that she suffered from mental illness.

    “The convict Salma Tanveer is sentenced to death and fine Rs50,000 u/s 295-C PPC,” said the verdict.

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