A three-judge special bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel heard Bibi’s 2014 appeal against her conviction and death sentence under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Justice Nisar while reading out the verdict said, “”The appeal is allowed. She has been acquitted. The judgement of the high court as well as trial court is reversed. Her conviction is set aside.”
The judgment added, “Asia Bibi be released immediately if not involved in any other case.”
On October 8, the top court had reserved its judgment on the appeal of the Christian mother of four, who in 2010 became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
Allegations against Bibi
The allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009, when she was labouring in a field and a row broke out with some Muslim women who alleged that she committed blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010, despite her advocates maintaining her innocence and insisting the accusers held grudges against her.
During the last hearing on October 8, Bibi’s lawyer Saiful Mulook had told the bench that the incident took place on June 14, 2009 and its case was registered on June 19. A case was filed against Bibi by an Imam in Katanwala village who alleged that Bibi had confessed to committing blasphemy, the lawyer said.
To this, Justice Nisar had asked Bibi’s lawyer, “Are these things on record?” However, Mulook had told the bench that the Imam (prayer leader) himself was not a witness to the incident.
“There are also contradictions regarding how the notice of the incident was taken and the complainant has said the decision to register an FIR against Bibi was taken amid a group of people,” he had upheld.
Further, Mulook had said, “Permission was not taken from the district coordination officer (DCO) or the district police officer (DPO) to register the FIR.”
He had added that the Imam in the FIR said that the villagers had not attempted to beat up Bibi.
To this, Justice Khosa had remarked, “From your statements we have gathered that the Imam himself did not witness the incident as it happened and no blasphemous words were said in his presence.”
Justice Nisar had then added, “As per the prayer leader’s statement, a panchayat was held in a house and 1,000 people had gathered for it.”
“The FIR states that Bibi was a Christian preacher, was she really?” the chief justice asked. Mulook responded in the negative and said, “She was never a preacher.”
After hearing the arguments, the top court reserved its judgment on Bibi’s appeal. The chief justice had also directed news channels to not discuss the case.