Pakistan: Senate panel passes bill to remove sedition law


The Senate Standing Committee on Interior on Thursday unanimously approved a bill to repeal Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) – also known as the ‘Sedition Law’.

The bill came under consideration during a meeting of the panel held under the chairmanship of PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz.

Section 124-A of the PPC reads: “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 fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”

In March this year, Lahore High Court’s Justice Shahid Karim struck down Section 124-A of the PPC, declaring it as ultra vires of the Constitution. The petitioners argued that Section 124-A of the PPC contravened Article 8, 9, 14, 16, 17, 19 and 19-A of the Constitution. In the Senate committee’s meeting, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2023, introduced by PTI Senator Fawzia Arshad, was unanimously approved. PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said the bill was “lost” somewhere in the secretariat. He pointed out that purpose of the bill was to change the neo-demographic style of government.

The PPP senator observed that there is no need for Section 124-A in the PPC as it belonged to the neo-demographic era. He added that in present times, the concept of rebellion did not exist. He also noted that a single-member bench of the LHC had declared Section 124-A as unconstitutional. The interim law and justice ministry said the government had filed an appeal against the decision, and the bill should be postponed until the matter was decided by the court. Senator Rabbani, however, said parliamentary activities could not be stopped because of judicial proceedings.

The committee also took up the Societies Registration (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which dealt with the registration of existing and new madrassas.

JUI-P Senator Molvi Faiz Muhammad, who was one of the movers of the bill, said madrassas should not only be registered in Islamabad, but the facility should be available in every district of the country. The officials of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration told him that the procedure for the registration of madrasas was already in place under the Charities Act.

The JUI-P senator spoke in Arabic and objected to the use of English by the ICT Administration officials. He said it would be better if religious organisations were called to a meeting of the committee.

The chairman of committee noted that there was no purpose for this bill to come to the panel’s meeting again.

The interior secretary said the main purpose of the bill was that people should not have to travel to Islamabad for the registration of madrasas from faraway places. He added that with the provincial Charities Act in place, nobody needed to come to the federal capital for this purpose. The committee later rejected the bill. Senator Abdul Qadir quipped that the chairman had enraged the JUI-P senator. The Cutting of Trees (Prohibition) (Amendment) Bill, 2023, moved by PPP Senator Palwasha Mohammed Zai Khan, was also considered. The bill was adjourned until the next meeting of the committee for re-introduction.__Daily Times