Tuesday April 23, 2024

LHC strikes down colonial-era sedition law

Constitution of Pakistan gives every citizen right to freedom of expression, argue petitioners in LHC

By Numan Wahab
March 31, 2023
A view of the Lahore High Court. — LHC website
A view of the Lahore High Court. — LHC website

LAHORE: Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court on Thursday invalidated Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, commonly known as the sedition law, introduced in 1860 to suppress political opponents.

The section criminalises anyone who attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites disaffection towards, the federal or provincial governments established by law, through words, signs, or visible representation. The court’s decision was based on petitions filed by citizens, including Salman Abuzar and Haroon Farooq, who argued that the sedition law was being used by the government to silence its critics for political purposes.

The petitioners claimed that the sedition law, a remnant of British colonial rule, violates the fundamental rights of freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution, and serves as an oppressive tool for the suppression of dissent, free speech, and criticism. The court agreed with the petitioners and struck down the sedition law, citing its inconsistency with articles 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 19(a) of the Constitution.

The court’s decision could have far-reaching implications for journalists, politicians, and activists who have faced prosecution based on sedition charges, including Javed Hashmi, the late Arshad Sharif, Khawar Ghumman, Adeel Raja, Sadaf Abdul Jabbar, Javed Hashmi, Shahbaz Gill, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir.