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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Pakistan Supreme Court protects Minority Rights in new judgement

The Supreme Court has declared the possession of inflammatory material an offence by itself even before it is distributed.

News Desk |

“A plain reading of Section 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 unambiguously, suggests that possession of the inflammatory material by itself is an offense even before it is distributed; the legislature intended to nip the evil in the bud and rightly so given the inflammatory potential of the crime,” said the Supreme Court judgment authored by Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed.

On January 21, 2015, Qari Muhammad Ishaq Ghazi was taken into custody by police in Okara for possessing pamphlets, fraught with incendiary contents, calculated to incite hatred towards a particular sect. Indicted before an anti-terrorism court in Lahore, he was convicted under Section 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and sentenced to 5-years RI with a fine of Rs.100,000/- to be recovered as arrears of land revenue with the benefit of Section 382-B of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 vide judgment dated 24-3-2015. His appeal was rejected by Lahore High Court.

Later, the appeal came before the apex court after his release in the wake of the completion of his sentence; however, the counsel opted to argue the case at full length with a view to vindicating his position. The apex court in its order noted that contents of the pamphlets were repugnant and abhorrent, capable of causing most grievous offence and contravened all the limits of decency.

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The court said the argument that mere possession of the material by itself would not attract the mischief of the section, without actual distribution, was naively beside the mark. It said that the officials who testified in the witness box had seemingly no ax to grind.

The court held that police officials were as good witnesses as any other and their evidence was subject to the same standard of proof and principles of scrutiny as applicable to any other category of witnesses, in the absence of any animus, infirmity or flaw in their depositions, their statements could rely without demur, it added. Likewise, the apex court rejected the appeal against high court judgment.