Law ministry proposes 'ridiculing' army an offence

Law ministry suggests insertion of Section 500-A in PPC


Hasnaat Malik September 25, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs meeting of the federal cabinet held in Islamabad. PHOTO: PID/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Criminal Law Reforms 2021, prepared by the law ministry, has proposed the insertion of a new offence in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) 1860 on the charges of intentionally ridiculing the armed forces.

The law ministry, led by Dr Farogh Naseem, has finalised 225 central and 644 sub-amendments proposed for the purpose of completely reforming the criminal justice system.

These laws include the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, the Pakistan Penal Code 1860, Qanun-e-Shahadat Order 1984, Control of Narcotics Act 1997, Railways Act 1890, Pakistan Prison Rules 1978, Islamabad Capital Territory Criminal Prosecution Service (Constitution, Functions and Powers) Act 2021 and Islamabad Capital Territory Forensic Science Agency Act 2021.

Presently, a cabinet committee is reviewing all the proposed reforms.

According to the draft of the "criminal law reforms", a new section has proposed whereby a person shall be liable for an offence, if he ridiculed, brought into disrepute or defamed the armed forces of Pakistan.

For this purpose, the draft has proposed the insertion of Section 500-A in the PPC, wherein it is suggested that "whoever intentionally ridicules brings into disrepute or defames the armed forces of Pakistan, he shall be guilty of an offence punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which extend to two years or with fine which may extend to five hundred thousand rupees or with both".

It has also suggested that utterance under Sub-section 1 directed against the armed forces of Pakistan as an institution, the informant or complainant as the case may be, shall be prosecuted by the armed forces through its concerned JAG branch with its officers as witnesses.

Also read: ‘Ridiculous idea’, Fawad says after NA body approved bill criminalising criticism of army

The criminal law reforms prepared by Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem has also suggested for an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1898 that an officer in-charge of a police station should not be below the rank of a sub-inspector and should at least hold a degree of bachelor and its equivalent.

Presently, an officer in-charge of a police station is above the rank of a constable.

The provincial government or the federal government shall prescribe the criteria of police stations with a particular threshold of caseload. Accordingly,the officer in-charge of a police station shall at least be the rank of an assistant superintendent.

The law minister believes that that amendment would substantially decrease incompetence and corruption.

It has also been suggested that the public should give information to authorities in respect of Qatl-e-Amd not liable to Qisas under Section 209 of the PPC.

A proviso on the arrest of women is proposed whereby her submission to custody on an oral intimation of arrest shall be presumed. Unless the circumstances otherwise required or unless the police officer was a female, the officer shall not touch the suspected woman for making her arrest.

A new insertion of Section 54-A in CrPC has been proposed for evolving a new procedure of arrest.

First, the detenu must be informed of the grounds of arrest and their family must be informed no later than 24 hours.

The detenu shall be given access to the lawyer of their choice or if they cannot afford lawyer, they must be given a state counsel to consult.

Nobody can hear the conversation between the detenu and their lawyer.

Under Section 54AA, if the arrest is required, the police officer will send a notice to the accused. If the accused complies with such notice, then there is no need for arresting them. However, if they fail to comply, then the police officer may arrest then for the alleged offence mentioned in the notice.

A new section is proposed whereby the police officer making an arrest must identify themselves first. Later, a memorandum to be attested by member of family or respectable of locality where arrest is made.

A new section is proposed whereby the provincial government would establish control rooms in every district. The notice board of a control room shall display the names and the addresses of the persons arrested and the name and designation of the police officers who made the arrests.

A new section is proposed creating a right for the accused to meet an advocate of their own choice during interrogation.

It is also proposed that if an arrest was made without a warrant, the officer in-charge of the police station should communicate this fact. They must satisfy themselves with the grounds of the arrest and record the same in writing.

If the accused is arrested for a bailable offence, they shall be informed about their right to be released on bail.

The magistrate is to satisfy themselves that the police had complied with all the requirements otherwise they would report the delinquent police officers to the competent authority for appropriate action.

The arrested person is to be examined by a female doctor in case the accused was a woman and a copy of the medical report will be given to the suspect.

This will substantially check police torture during custody.

It has been proposed that the relief under Section 22-A (6) shall not be invocable unless all remedies under the Code had been exhausted first.

The law minister in his briefing to the cabinet on September 14 had observed that Section 22-A (read with section 154) were major problems.

When the police do not register cases, then courts were flooded with Section 22-A applications and thus they are left no time to attend to other cases.

Now if an SHO does not register a case, the matter would be referred to an SP -- automatically reducing the load of Section 22-A cases.

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