Supreme Court grants bail to man accused of blasphemy

Sohail Khan
The Supreme Court of Pakistan building in Islamabad. — SC website.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan building in Islamabad. — SC website.

  • SC says further investigation is required in instant matter.
  • Bail granted in return for surety bond of Rs100,000.
  • SC expresses dissatisfaction over investigation conducted by FIA.

A man accused of posting blasphemous content on WhatsApp was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Friday, holding that further investigation is required in the instant matter. 

A two-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Qazi Isa and comprised of Justice Yahya Afridi, granted bail to accused Zahid Mahmood in return for a surety bond of Rs100,000, The News reported.

On June 6, 2022, the Cybercrime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Multan complained against the accused. 

After hearing the matter, the trial court and the high court rejected the bail application of the accused, who later moved to the apex court for relief.

On Friday, during the hearing, Justice Isa said that the trial court had not inserted any clause while indicting the accused.

“How will the accused fight his case when he is unaware of what crime he has committed?” Justice Isa asked the deputy attorney-general.

The judge inquired whether the instant case falls under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The deputy attorney-general, however, submitted that the investigation agency had investigated the matter in the complaint filed against the accused.

“But at least you should know about the clause, which applies at the time of indictment of the accused,” Justice Isa told the law officer.

The judge said that the FIA had also sought the opinion of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CCI) in the instant case, and the council while giving its opinion, held that Section 295-C of the PPC could not be applied to the accused.

“If the opinion of the council, which is a constitutional body, is not being followed, then it is better to close it,” Justice Isa remarked.

Justice Afridi said that the apex court had recently given a verdict in a blasphemy matter. The judge asked the counsel for the accused about the date on which the CII gave its opinion.

The counsel replied that the opinion came on June 8, 2022. At this point, Justice Afridi asked the counsel, if the trial court had rejected the accused’s bail application despite the council’s recommendation.

“At this stage, we cannot give our opinion,” Justice Afridi remarked, adding that if the court gives its opinion, the instant matter pending before the learned high court will be affected.

While Justice Isa said that every case about religion is related to the state and added that matters about religion cannot be left in the hands of individuals but that the state machinery should handle them with ability and caution.

“The state machinery should not surrender to individuals in dealing with such matters,” the judge said.

Meanwhile, the court expressed dissatisfaction over the investigation conducted by the FIA and held that the trial court had framed the charge against the accused without inserting the relevant section.

The court further held that more investigation is required in this matter as the alleged content posted on WhatsApp was in Arabic. 

In contrast, the investigation failed to establish whether the complainant knows Arabic or not. Similarly, the court held that the investigation also failed to establish how the complainant came to know about the alleged content posted on WhatsApp.