Absolutely Ridiculous Idea To Criminalise Criticism, Says Fawad Chaudhry

Aizbah KhanWeb Editor

08th Apr, 2021. 08:11 pm
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Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, a day after National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Home Affairs approves the bill for 2 years imprisonment or fine against those who deliberately ridicule the armed forces, said it was a “ridiculous idea” to criminalize criticism.

Although Fawad Chaudhry did not directly refer to the bill in his tweet, he made the statement in response to a tweet from senior journalist Mazhar Abbas, who apparently commented on the passage of the bill by the National Assembly’s standing committee.

Mazhar Abbas wrote, “You are free to criticise democracy, you are free to criticise Parliament, you are free to criticise politicians, you are free to criticise media rest is national interest.”

Of which Fawad Chaudhry said, “Absolutely ridiculous idea to criminalise criticism, respect is earned, cannot be imposed on people, I strongly feel instead of new such laws Contempt of Court laws should be repealed.”

It may be recalled that the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Home Affairs had yesterday approved a bill to amend the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Code 1898 to take action against those who deliberately ridicule the Armed Forces.

The bill states that anyone who commits this crime will be sentenced to 2 years imprisonment or a fine, which can be up to Rs 500,000 or both.

PTI National Assembly member Amjad Ali Khan introduced the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2020 in the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Admission, which was passed in a meeting chaired by MNA Raja Khurram Nawaz.

Also read: ‘Those who speak out against the army will have a leaflet in 72 hours’

The bill proposes to amend section 500 of the PPC, which states that “a person who defames another is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine or to both.”

The amendment passed yesterday, which will be called Section 500-A, states that ‘punishment for deliberately mocking the Armed Forces, whoever deliberately mocks the Pakistan Armed Forces or any of its members, is notorious. If he does, he will be found guilty of a punishable offence and can be sentenced to 2 years imprisonment, a fine of up to Rs 500,000 or both.

Prior to the passage of the bill, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Agha Rafiullah and PML-N lawmaker Maryam Aurangzeb had strongly opposed it, but the standing committee chairman passed the bill with 5 votes to 4. Approved

Both members of the opposition were of the opinion that the bill should not be introduced.

Before the passage of the bill, Maryam Aurangzeb had asked the chairman of the standing committee to read Article 19 of the constitution.

In addition, PTI committee member Sher Akbar Khan had requested National Assembly member Amjad Ali Khan to withdraw the bill but later voted in favour of the bill.

A working paper of the Ministry of Home Affairs was presented before the Committee on Amendment Bill stating that the Bill was received from the Council Section of the Ministry of Home Affairs on September 21, 2020, and on the same day at General Headquarters, Islamabad Capital, The regional administrations were sent to Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to express their views.

According to the working paper, no response has been received from the concerned stakeholders so far.

It said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Home Department did not ratify the bill, saying its implementation would create controversy over existing constitutional and legal provisions and its misuse would not be curbed.

Moreover, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government believed that the passage of the bill would discriminate against other law enforcement agencies and public offices, which is unconstitutional.

The working paper stated that the ICT administration had endorsed the content of the proposed legislation.

Explaining the Interior Ministry’s point of view, the document said that the incidents of defamation of the Armed Forces have increased in the country and some elements are engaged in this undesirable act to further their political aims which are highly detrimental to the Armed Forces of Pakistan and it is a source of disgrace and disappointment.

It added that the Home Minister endorsed the proposed legislation in light of the current situation in the country.

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