ISLAMABAD: The country’s top court has granted post-arrest bail to a woman who has been behind bars since March 3, 2012 on blasphemy charges.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, took up the plea of Walaiha Irafat on Thursday. Renowned jurist Asma Jahangir appeared on behalf of the petitioner.
On March 3, 2012, complainant Abdul Manan Shah filed an FIR against Walaiha under the Pakistan Penal Code’s section 295-B (defiling the Holy Quran) at the Factory Area police station in Lahore.
The FIR states that the complainant, a night-shift security guard at the Punjab Housing Society Lahore, was on patrol duty on March 3, 2012, when he heard Mrs Amir Arshad raising a hue and cry near the Dogar service station at Usman Plaza.
“Upon inquiring, Shah was told by the woman that her neighbour Walaiha had desecrated the Holy Quran. The complainant and another person then entered Walaiha’s house and witnessed the defilement,” reads the FIR.
Initially, the petitioner had applied for bail but it was refused on July 10, 2012, because the judge said the charge was of a serious nature. The following two pleas for bail were also rejected. Later on, the Lahore High Court also dismissed a petition on August 28 this year.
Walaiha’s counsel told the bench that the petitioner was innocent and was suffering on account of pressure from external forces. “Being a Muslim, she cannot even conceive the idea of committing such a heinous crime.”
The plea claims that the complainant and “witnesses” had admitted that they had not actually seen the offence being committed.
Asma said: “The petitioner is suffering from mood disorders and she needs drug and psychotherapy. Her continuous confinement poses a serious threat to her life.”
The petition also states that Walaiha’s case falls under the first proviso of the Criminal Procedure Code’s section 497, which stipulates that a woman who has been refused bail shall be released if she has been detained for a continuous period of six months.
“Walaiha has been behind bars since March 3, 2012 and her trial has been under way for more than three years; hence, she is entitled to bail on statutory grounds,” reads the plea.
The applicant has also offered to furnish surety upon the satisfaction of the court. After hearing Asma’s arguments, the bench granted bail to the accused.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.