ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday formed a committee to review a bill that aims to amend the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) where up to five-year imprisonment will be awarded to whoever ridicules the Pakistan Army and judiciary through any medium.
In a handout, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said a cabinet committee had been formed to carefully review the Criminal Laws Amendment Bill, 2023 forwarded by the interior ministry. It further said that the body would submit its report at the next meeting of the federal cabinet.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, Economic Affairs Minister Sardar Ayaz Sadiq as well as representatives from the coalition parties have been included in the committee, the PMO handout said.
A source from the PMO said PPP leaders Sherry Rehman, Naveed Qamar and Hina Rabbani Khar were among those who strongly opposed the proposed bill.
From the PML-N only Khawaja Saad Rafique — who is also the railway’s minister — opposed the proposed bill outright.
After listening to the concerns of the cabinet, the prime minister recommended that a committee be formed to review the proposed bill. He also said that members from allied parties should also be included in a bid to resolve their concerns, the source said.
Titled 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.’
It says 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 by certain wings 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.