The upper house of parliament on Monday unanimously passed a law, making the desecration of graves or bodies a cognisable offence punishable by life in prison.
“If any person without sanction of lawful authority digs up and in any way desecrates a grave, steals, damages, removes or in any way physically violates a body which is in or stolen from a grave shall, if found guilty of such an offence, be liable to punishment of life imprisonment,” says the draft of the law passed by the Senate.
A new section has been added to Clause 297 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), 1860 - the statuary laws introduced during the colonial British era and adopted later after the partition with certain amendments. This has been done in order to check growing incidents of desecration of bodies and graves.
Interestingly, the legislation came on a private members’ day and was moved by Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Col (retd) Tahir Hussain Mashhadi. It will be now sent to the National Assembly for a vote. To transform draft legislation into law it needs to be adopted by both houses of parliament before the president signs it into an act.
There have been growing incidents of stealing, selling and removing parts of bodies. In some cases graves were also desecrated by religious fanatics and other criminal gangs. Back in December 2011, Senator Mashhadi had introduced the bill, which was referred to the Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration.
Tagged as “The Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2011,” the legislation was deliberated by the Senate panel in several committee meetings. The committee unanimously approved the draft and noted that there was a dire need to formulate a stringent law to safeguard the sanctity of dead bodies.
In addition, the Protection of Cyber Crimes Bill, 2014, laid before the house by Senator Karim Ahmad Khwaja, was referred to the standing committee when State Minister Anusha Rehman said the government already had a similar bill in the cabinet.
Another bill seeking amendment to the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010 that aims to allot powers similar to the Federal Ombudsman and Federal Tax Ombudsman to the Woman Ombudsman was also introduced and sent to the select committee.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2014.
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