Access to Public Information, Content Regulation / Censorship, Hate Speech, Public Order, Religious Expression
Chopra v. State of West Bengal
On Appeal Contracts Expression
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In November 2014, actress Veena Malik, her husband Asad Bashir, and Jang-Geo Media group owner, Mir Shakil ur-Rahman, were each fined 1.3 million rupees ($12,800) and sentenced to 26-years in prison for the portrayal of an offensive scene involving religious music on television. The Gilgit Anti-Terrorism court held that the scene qualified as a malicious act of blasphemy and thus violated the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.
In May 2014, the Geo TV network aired a scene in which Malik and Bashir re-enacted a wedding ceremony that included Qawaali religious music. Later that same month, Himayatullah Khan (an associated of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a Muslim religious organization in Pakistan) logged a compliant against the network. In September 2014 the case was submitted to the Anti-Terrorism Court which held in November 2014 that the offenders were guilty under sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 and each were sentenced to 26-years imprisonment and fined 1.3 million rupees ($12,800).
In its decision the court relied on Pakistan’s blasphemy law, specifically section 295 of the penal code. Section 295 of Pakistan’s penal code criminalizes (1) malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings or insult religious beliefs; (2) defiling the Quran; and (3) using derogatory remarks, directly or indirectly, to defile the name of the prophet Muhammad. The court held that “the malicious acts of the proclaimed offenders ignited the sentiments of all the Muslims of the country and hurt [their] feelings, which cannot be taken lightly and there is need to strictly curb such tendency.” Additionally, the judge held that all the accused committed profanity. Therefore, actress Veena Malik, her husband Asad Bashir ,and Jang-Geo Media group owner, Mir Shakil ur-Rahman, were each fined 1.3 million rupees ($12,800) and sentenced to 26-years in prison.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case specifically and Pakistan’s blasphemy laws generally contracts freedom of expression. However, this case has only been litigated at the court of first instance and there are hopes that on appeal the decision will be altered and overruled. Furthermore, this court only has jurisdiction in the city of Gilgit, which is controlled by both Pakistan and India since it is located in the Kashmir region. Therefore, verdicts delivered by this court are not necessarily binding throughout the rest of Pakistan.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.