The Acid throwing and Burn Crime Bill 2012 has been referred to the relevant standing committee of the lower house for further deliberations but some of the movers have backtracked from earlier stance by opposing the proposal of death penalty for the crime
The original bill introduced by the group in the lower house last Tuesday had called for either the death penalty or life imprisonment as punishment.
Section 6 of the Acid Throwing and Burn Crime Bill, 2012 reads: “(1) Whoever commits or attempts to commit an offence of acid or burn attack shall: (i) if such act has resulted in the death of any person be punished with death or imprisonment for life; and; (ii) whoever intentionally causes hurt by Acid and Burn attack shall be punished with death or rigorous imprisonment for life.”
The group cited a growing number of acid throwing and burn crimes as the reason for suggesting the death penalty.
The bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice for fine tuning, and movers believe that the suggestion of capital punishment could trigger a new debate.
“The issue (punishment) will trigger a debate in the standing committee since the government is discouraging the death sentence,” said MNA Yasmeen Rehman while talking to The Express Tribune, on Saturday. “In my opinion, the punishment should not be the death sentence [for acid throwing crimes],” Rehman added.
Shahnaz Wazir Ali of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also referred to the standpoint of her party’s government and said that the sentence is likely to change. “I think it (the death sentence) will be changed during the likely debate in the standing committee,” she said.
Justifying the proposal, she said that several people were of the view that there should be severe punishment for such heinous crimes. She added that, until recently, there was no punishment at all for the crimes and the proposal was intended as a deterrent to curb the growing number of acid throwing cases.
“We will try our level best to have the bill approved in the next session of the National Assembly,” said Wazir Ali.
However, MNA Riaz Fatiana was not upbeat about the fate of the bill, citing the approaching end of term for the incumbent National Assembly and the lengthy process every bill goes through before being passed.
Responding to a question regarding punishment of the crime, Fatiana also said he was opposed to awarding the death penalty in acid or burn crimes.
“How many people do you want to hang?” he questioned, referring to existing laws according to which crimes under anti-narcotics or robbery are tantamount to a death sentence. He also highlighted another piece of legislation on the subject and said the maximum punishment for the offence is 14-year imprisonment and the same should apply to this bill. Responding to a question on the moratorium on of death penalty by the PPP government, he said: “The president has neither pardoned those who have been awarded the death penalty nor has he implemented the sentence.”
The bill was jointly introduced by four members of the PPP Yasmeen Rehman, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Dr Nafisa Shah and Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, three members from Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, Dr Attiya Inaatullah, Riaz Fatyana and Humayun Saifullah Khan, and one member from the Muttahida Quami Movement Khush Bakht Shujaat.
Moved by Dr Attiya Inayatullah, the 35-clause bill provides guidelines for investigation, protection of witnesses, establishment of the acid and burn crime monitoring board as well as its responsibilities.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2012.