ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges, declaring the death penalty handed down to her by a trial court null and void.
The verdict on her final appeal against her execution was reserved by a special three-member bench on October 8.
Asia Bibi acquitted: Complete Supreme Court verdict
The bench ruled that Asia Bibi be released if she is not facing anymore charges.
Following the announcement, protests erupted in various cities against the judgement.
The verdict was announced by a special bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar at 9am. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel were the other members of the bench.
The 56-page order, authored by CJP Nisar also has an additional note of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.
Accepting the plea of the accused, the order read: “It is a well settled principle of law that one who makes an assertion has to prove it. Thus, the onus rests on the prosecution to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt throughout the trial.
“Presumption of innocence remains throughout the case until such time the prosecution on the evidence satisfies the Court beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the offence alleged against him. There cannot be a fair trial, which is itself the primary purpose of criminal jurisprudence, if the judges have not been able to clearly elucidate the rudimentary concept of standard of proof that prosecution must meet in order to obtain a conviction. Two concepts i.e., “proof beyond reasonable doubt” and “presumption of innocence” are so closely linked together that the same must be presented as one unit. If the presumption of innocence is a golden thread to criminal jurisprudence, then proof beyond reasonable doubt is silver, and these two threads are forever intertwined in the fabric of criminal justice system. As such, the expression “proof beyond reasonable doubt” is of fundamental importance to the criminal justice: it is one of the principles which seeks to ensure that no innocent person is convicted. Where there is any doubt in the prosecution story, benefit should be given to the accused, which is quite consistent with the safe administration of criminal justice.
Further, suspicion howsoever grave or strong can never be a proper substitute for the standard of proof required in a criminal case, i.e. beyond reasonable doubt. In the presence of enmity between the accused and the complainant/witnesses, usually a strict standard of proof is applied for determining the innocence or guilt of the accused. If the PWs are found inimical towards the accused, she deserves acquittal on the principle of the benefit of the doubt. Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. Reliance in this behalf may be made to the cases reported as Muhammad Ashraf Vs. The State (2016 SCMR 1617), Muhammad Jamshaid Vs. The State (2016 SCMR 1019), Muhammad Asghar alias Nannah Vs. The State (2010 SCMR 1706), Noor Muhammad alias Noora Vs. The State (1992 SCMR 2079) and Ayub Masih Vs. The State (PLD 2002 SC 1048).”
While reserving the verdict after hearing, the top court had restrained both electronic and print media from discussing or commenting on the matter till the final judgement.
Asia Bibi, a Christian accused of blasphemy eight years ago, was awarded death sentence over blasphemy charges.
A case was filed against her by a prayer leader in Katanwala village of Nankana Sahib.
The prayer leader said Asia had confessed to committing blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water. She was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 and has been in jail ever since.
Security beefed up
Sensitizing the matter, the government has made necessary arrangements for maintaining law and order.
Meanwhile, in this connection, the Sindh government has also issued a notification of high alert in the province to avert any untoward incident.
Islamabad Red Zone has also been sealed due to security concerns. The road from Rawal Dam roundabout to Red Zone has also been closed for traffic by placing containers to block the passage.