ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the sentence of a blasphemer under sections 295-A and 295-B, but set aside his conviction as well as those of others under sections 302(b) and 324 of PPC and anti-terrorism law.

Section 295-A is about deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs, while Section 295-B is about defiling the holy Qur’an and 295-C talks about use of derogatory remarks etc. in respect of the holy prophet.

Anti-Terrorism Court in 2006 awarded death sentence to 27 persons, including Shahbaz Ahmed, under sections 302, 324, 337L(2), 295-A & B of Pakistan Penal Code and sections 7(a) and 9 of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. Shahbaz was also awarded death sentence under 295-C.

The Lahore High Court, on their appeal, set aside sentences of all the accused under Section 295-C of PPC while it upheld their conviction and sentences for the remaining offences.

Aggrieved by the LHC judgment, they approached the apex court. The top court set aside the sentences under sections 324, 337-L (2) of PPC and sections 7(a) and 9 of the ATA against all the accused, including Shahbaz. The court noted that from the evidence brought on record by the prosecution, the commission of offence under sections 295-A and 295-B of PPC by the appellants, other than Shahbaz Ahmad, was not proven.

The court held the appellants will be entitled to the benefit of all the remissions and benefit of Section 382-B of CrPC from the date of their arrest.

According to the prosecution, Shahbaz claimed he was Imam Mehdi. He had used derogatory language against Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH).

The case against the petitioners was that Shahbaz Ahmed who claimed he was Imam Mehdi invited the people to follow him and warned if he was opposed, the country as a whole and the city of Faisalabad, in particular, would face destruction.

The petitioners along with others staged a procession in motorcars and proceeded towards the motorway. The police alleged the participants of the procession were duly armed. When the law enforcers tried to stop the procession, some of the participants started firing at them at the Motorway Interchange of Faisalabad and injured four cops, Navid alias Nazir Tahir Ahad, Babar Shafi and Abid. Babar Shafi succumbed to his injuries. The petitioners were arrested, tried and convicted.