October 16th, 2020
By Ahmad Saeed
The legal fraternity has registered strong objections to a statement by the Provincial Minister of Punjab for Law Basharat Raja that the police can register a sedition case on the complaint of any ordinary citizen. Although senior lawyers posit that the law on filing sedition cases is very clear, the law minister is not correctly interpreting the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Section 196 of the CrPC reads, “No Court shall take cognizance of any offense punishable under Chapter VI or IXA of the Pakistan Penal Code (except Section 127), or punishable under Section 108-A, or Section 153-A, or Section 294-A, or Section 295-A or Section 505 of the same Code, unless, upon a complaint made by order of, or under authority from, the Central Government, or the Provincial Government concerned, or some officer empowered in this behalf by either of the two Governments.”
Senior advocate Farhad Ali Shah, who is pursuing a sedition case lodged against PML-N leader Capt. (R) Safdar, explained that courts in the past had discarded sedition FIRs because not all legal requirements were fulfilled at the time of registration.
“In cases of Javed Hashmi and Tehmina Daultana, the courts quashed the FIRs lodged under Chapter VI or IXA of the PPC because all the legal requirement were not met,” Shah said
Pertaining to the recent trend of lodging cases against journalists and political leaders, Farhad Ali Shah termed these cases unconstitutional and alleged that the government is forcing institutions to act unconstitutionally in this regard.
Azam Nazir Tarar, Chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council’s executive committee, stated that the consequences of lobbing sedition charges to curb dissent would be dire. He further said that the Supreme Court, in its verdict on the Mustafa Impex case, ruled that the power of the provincial or federal government could only be exercised by the cabinet and, therefore, the approval of the cabinet was required to register sedition cases.
Criminal lawyer Zulfiqar Bukhari asserted that action should also be taken against police officers who register sedition cases without the prior approval of the cabinet, as such a move only serves to spread unrest in society.
It should be noted that the Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh admitted that the sedition cases against former Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders had been lodged upon his approval.