LAHORE  -   The Supreme Court on Saturday ordered the federal and provincial governments to compensate those who suffered losses during protests against the Aasia Bibi case verdict within one month.

Aasia Bibi is a Christian woman who had been previously condemned to death by the Lahore High Court and the sessions court on blasphemy charges.

The two-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, passed the orders at the Lahore Registry, and disposed of a suo motu notice regarding losses caused to lives and properties of the public during the protests.

At the outset of the hearing, in a reply to the apex court’s question, Punjab Advocate General Ahmad Owais submitted that estimated losses were Rs262 million in the Punjab province.

He said that the cabinet had approved the estimated amount and now the matter had been forwarded to the chief minister for release of funds.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan on the explanation asked whether any plan had been devised for the payment of the compensation to the victims. The chief justice observed, “If the court had not taken up the matter, the government would not have taken any action?”

He remarked that a complete plan for the payment of compensation had not yet been issued so far despite the passage of two-and-a-half months.

A section officer of home department informed the bench that payments would be made within the current month. The bench sought implementation of the report recommendations.

During the last hearing, the court had directed the federal and provincial governments to submit their plans for the payment of compensation to protest victims. The bench had expressed dissatisfaction over the reports filed by the Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments on the loss of lives and properties.

The bench had been informed by the government’s representative that 2,936 activists and their leaders had been put behind bars while 503 cases were registered including 26 under section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

On November 1, the apex court had acquitted Aasia Bibi and ordered immediate release of the Christian woman.

The apex court had remarked in the ruling, “The appeal is allowed. She has been acquitted. The judgment of high court as well as trial court is reversed. Her conviction is set aside.” It further said, “She is to be set free if she is not wanted in any other case.”

The Christian woman had been convicted and sentenced to death by the trial court in 2010 while in 2014, the LHC had upheld the verdict.