Lahore High Court refuses to hear bail plea of Christian defendant in a blasphemy case

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Lahore High Court refuses to hear the bail petition case of a Christian accused of committing blasphemy. The case hearing which was scheduled on December 9, Friday left the defense counsel of Sajjad Masih the respondent and his family in shock when the judge remarked, “I refuse to hear blasphemy case because today this came to my knowledge that this is blasphemy case and this will be heard by other bench”.

Sajjad Masih blasphemy case

Advocate Javed Sahotra the defense counsel of blasphemy convict Sajjad Masih had filed an appeal against the conviction in the Lahore High Court. On scheduled time, the court initiated the proceedings; during the case hearing Advocate Javed Sahotra told the honorable Judge Justice Aliya Neelum that in line with Section 426 two years are prescribed for hearing the appeal case against conviction of any crime. If the appeal case is not heard within two years then the conviction is considered null and void.

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“In our case three years and three months have passed but the appeal was not heard,” Advocate Javed told the honorable judge. He continued that there is no substantial evidence against the Sajjad Masih, the complainant had himself stated that he had not seen Sajjad Masih committing blasphemy. Advocate Javed further argued that there is no eye witness of the alleged blasphemy committed by Sajjad.

The complainant Tariq Saleem had stated that he had not witnessed Sajjad Masih committing blasphemy, nor has anybody else seen him committing the crime. Sajjad Masih landed into trouble when he was embroiled in a blasphemy case on December 28, back in 2011. Consequently, an FIR number 820/12 including harrowing 295 C PPC, was registered against Sajjad Masih in the city of Gojra District Toba Tek Singh.

Subsequently, on July 13 July 2013, a Judge handed down a life time imprisonment sentence to Sajjad Masih, convicting him of committing blasphemy. Additionally the court fined him of two lac Pakistani Rupees fine. In the face of brewing pressure from the religious extremists, the defense counsel was clear that the judge had convicted Sajjad Masih out of the pressure from the fanatics and that the prosecution had utterly failed to prove the charges leveled against Sajjad Masih.

Later in 2013, Advocate Javed Sahotra had filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court challenging the conviction sentence by the Additional Sessions Judge, Gojra. In compliance with 426, the conviction was to be suspended and for this sake an application was filed in 2015. This application which called for suspension; was sent to the bench of Lahore High Court’s Justice Sardar Shamim Khan.

Nonetheless, the case was not heard by the bench of Justice Sardar Shamim Khan, about eight times as every time the case hearing was scheduled, the court was adjourned apparently because the judge was not willing to hear the case.