Saturday February 24, 2024

Ridiculing state institutions: Legislation to penalise offenders on the cards

By Our Correspondent
February 05, 2023
National Assembly during a closing Plenary Session of 3rd IPU Regional Seminar on SDGs for the Parliament of Asia-Pacific Group at Parliament House. — APP/File
National Assembly during a closing Plenary Session of 3rd IPU Regional Seminar on SDGs for the Parliament of Asia-Pacific Group at Parliament House. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal government may take stringent measures to stall the malicious campaign against the national institutions, including judiciary, Pakistan Army and other constitutional organisations.

The legislation to penalise the elements involved in ridiculing such institutions is also under consideration.

The development has significant importance in the backdrop of unending campaign of a political party against the army, judiciary and other constitutional institutions.

Sources familiar with legislation told The News that a draft piece of legislation is in circulation to amend the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) where up to five-year imprisonment will be awarded to whoever scandalises or ridicules the Pakistan Army and judiciary through any medium.

The law is yet to get a final shape for submission to the cabinet. The draft bill has been authored by the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Law and Justice is busy with its fine-tuning before submitting it to the prime minister for putting it up before the cabinet. A cabinet summary has also been referred to with the draft.

The sources pointed out that titled as Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2023, the bill suggests a new section 500A after section 500 in PPC 1860. The new section is titled ‘Intentional ridiculing or scandalising of the state institutions, etc.’ The legislation provides that whoever makes, publishes, circulates any statement or disseminates information, through any medium, with an intention to ridicule or scandalise the judiciary, the armed forces or any of their member will be guilty of an offence punishable with simple imprisonment for a term, which may extend to five years or with a fine which may extend to Rs1 million or with both.

Similarly, in the Schedule II of the PPC, a new section titled 500A has been added to Section 500, which says that the offender will be arrested without a warrant and the offence will be non-bailable and non-compoundable, which can only be challenged in a sessions court.

The cabinet summary states that recently the country has witnessed a spate of scandalous, derogatory and vicious attacks on certain institutions of the state, including the judiciary and armed forces. It adds that it is well-known that a deliberate cyber campaign has been launched for self-serving motives with the objective of inciting and nurturing hatred against important state institutions and their officials.

It also states that such attacks are focused on undermining the integrity, stability and independence of the country’s state institutions.

The summary says that judicial and army officials do not have the opportunity to step forward and negate scandalous, derogatory remarks while appearing in the media. The document suggests that given the long-tested legal principle noted in Section 196 of the CrPC, prior approval of the federal government before taking cognisance of the case or registration of a first information report (FIR) against any person has been made mandatory to avoid misuse of the mooted PPC section.

Constitutional experts are of the view that stringent laws are already part of the book to stop maligning the army, judiciary and other state institutions. In the presence of such laws, there is no need of fresh legislation.