9 February 2023
By Hamza Saeed
The federal cabinet has established a committee to evaluate the Criminal Laws Amendment Bill, 2023, which proposes to amend the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to impose up to five years of imprisonment for anyone who insults the army and judiciary through any means.
The bill, titled the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2023, suggests a new section 500A in PPC 1860, which would make it an offense punishable by imprisonment, a fine of Rs1 million, or both, for anyone who disseminates information with the intention of ridiculing or scandalizing the state institutions.
The cabinet committee, consisting of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, Economic Affairs Minister Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, and representatives from coalition parties, will submit its report to the federal cabinet at the next meeting. However, the bill has faced opposition from a majority of members in the federal cabinet and some members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Irfan Qadir, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Legal Reforms, while speaking on the Aaj TV show, ‘Spot Light with Munizae Jahangir’, opposed such type of laws in his personal capacity. He added that the way ‘contempt of court’ is used blatantly by our judiciary should also be ended and that he will advise the same to Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
In the show, lawyer Salahuddin Ahmed commented satirically that the law is incomplete and should be extended to even the thoughts of those people who dare to criticise a judge or an army officer and that strict laws are needed to protect these institutions. He said that such acts will weaken democracy in Pakistan.
Senator Aown Abbas from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) responded to it by saying that there are chances that this law can be misused considering the history of abuse of power by the state. He added that all political forces should sit together and discuss it.