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Court sentences Hindu tutor for ‘blasphemy’ in Pakistan

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GHOTKI: A local court in has sentenced a Hindu man to life in prison on charges of blasphemy. Nautan Lal has been fined Rs50,000 as well.

Ghotki, a bordering town of Sindh province situated 418 KM (kilometers) and 100 meters in north from the port city of Karachi.

Additional Sessions Judge, Mumtaz Ali Solangi delivered the verdict on Tuesday. It has taken the court two years to pass the final order. Nautan Lal has been in jail since 2019 as an undertrial prisoner.

A written copy of the court’s verdict, states that he was convicted under Section 265-H of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This section says: if the accused admits that he has been previously convicted as alleged in the charge, the court may pass a sentence upon him according to law, and if the accused does not admit that he has been previously convicted as alleged in the charge, the court may take evidence in respect of the alleged previous conviction, and shall record a finding thereon, and then pass sentence upon him according to law.

A case against Nautan Lal was also registered under Section 295-C (use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

He has been sent back to Central Prison in Sukkur. In the past two years, his requests for bail have been rejected twice.

On September 14, 2019, a video was shared on social media in which a teenager, a first-year Intermediate student, claimed that the owner of Ghotki’s Sindh Public Higher Secondary School had blasphemed himself. According to teachers, however, Nautan Lal was just visiting that day. He doesn’t actually teach at his school. He is a physics teacher at Government Degree College Ghotki.

Soon after, the head of a madrassa, Mufti Adul Karim Sayeedi of Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, registered a blasphemy case against the school owner. Violence broke out in the district the night the case was registered.

As the news spread, masked men attacked the Sacho Satram Dham Temple in Ghotki. They ransacked the temple, damaged its idols and battered its blue and green walls.

Under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) anyone who uses derogatory remarks in respect of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is punishable by death.

Section 295-C of the PPC reads, “Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet: Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

No one has ever been executed under the blasphemy law in Pakistan as higher courts have either overturned or commuted sentences by the lower courts.

In 2019, in a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Aasia Noreen, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy.

In its verdict, the court said, “As noted…sometimes, to fulfill nefarious designs the law is misused by individuals leveling false allegations of blasphemy. Stately, since 1990, 62 people have been murdered as a result of blasphemy allegations, even before their trial could be conducted in accordance with law.”  

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