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LHC moved for enforcing sedition law order

By Numan Wahab
April 28, 2023

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday sought the federal government’s reply to a plea seeking compliance with the court’s sedition law order.

Previously, Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court had annulled colonial-era Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), dealing with sedition. Section 124-A of the PPC was commonly known as the “sedition law and was introduced in 1860 to suppress political opponents. In Thursday’s hearing, the counsel for the petitioner argued that the LHC had struck down the sedition law, but the government is still not complying with the court’s order.

It was argued that, despite the court order, FIRs are being registered against political leaders under the said section. The court, after hearing the petitioner, has sought a reply from the federal government in this regard. Section 124-A of the PPC says: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the federal or provincial government established by law, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added, or with imprisonment that may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added, or with a fine.”

In the petition seeking the abolishment of the law, it was argued that the sedition act was enacted in 1860, which is a sign of British colonial rule. It added that this law was used for slaves, under which a case can be registered at anyone’s request. The petitioner argued that the Constitution of Pakistan gives every citizen the right to freedom of expression, but still, Section 124-A is imposed for making speeches against the rulers. According to the petitioners, Section 124-A of the Sedition Act is being used for political purposes and should be struck down. It was further argued that Section 124-A of the PPC is ultra-vires in terms of Article 8 of the Constitution, being inconsistent with and in derogation of fundamental rights provided under Articles 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 19A of the Constitution. It was argued that the said law was serving as a notorious tool for the suppression of dissent, free speech, and criticism in a free and independent Pakistan.

The petition named various journalists, including martyred Arshad Sharif, Khawar Ghumman, Adeel Raja, and Sadaf Abdul Jabbar who are facing prosecution on the basis of sedition charges. It also named veteran politician Javed Hashmi who was sentenced to 23 years in prison on sedition charges. The petition also quoted the cases of Shahbaz Gill, Mohsin Dawar, Ali Wazir from Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) who are also facing prosecution on the basis of sedition charges. The petition concluded that all the cases are politically motivated and implored the court to strike down Section 124-A of the PPC, which was accepted by the court.