Supreme Court on October 27 issued a defining order in respect of the blasphemy laws
The Supreme Court (SC) on October 27 issued a defining order in respect of the blasphemy laws. The SC was hearing an appeal against the death sentence awarded to Mumtaz Qadri for the murder of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. It dismissed the appeal in a 39-page verdict saying that Mr Taseer had been murdered on the basis of hearsay and that there was no evidence that he had committed a blasphemy. Further, his murderer was motivated by a personal hatred that had “diluted if not polluted the acclaimed purity of the appellant’s purpose”. The judgment is clear — the SC will not entertain the abuse of the blasphemy laws, and will strike down any attempt to abuse them by making false or vexatious allegations of blasphemy. Neither can the citizenry take the law into its own hands in respect of administering any judgment or sentence as to the commission of a blasphemy — the dispensation of justice is the province of the judiciary, not the common man or woman.
There can be no doubt that the blasphemy laws are misused, and there have been numerous instances of such in recent years. The Qadri case brought into sharp focus the need to reiterate what was already the law of the land, which the SC has now done. We welcome this judgment. It removes any uncertainty as to where the SC sat in this matter, as well as makes plain that those taking the law into their own hands will be judged accordingly — as in the Qadri case. It may be that this judgment will be a way-paver for a tightening of the blasphemy legislation by the introduction of clauses that detail the penalties for abusing the law and making false allegations, and if so then that will be much welcomed. The SC has cautioned against what it terms “religious vigilantism” — a tendency that is all too easily triggered in this volatile society. Unfortunately, the judgment is unlikely to act as a handbrake for some of the more irresponsible orators who are bent on mischief, for whom the law is only honoured in its breach.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2015.
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