Draft bill to make blasphemy an offence placed before IHC

ISLAMABAD –  A draft bill for bringing amendments to ‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2010,’ by including blasphemy and pornography as offences was placed before the Islamabad High Court on Friday.

The bill was presented during the hearing in implementing the court judgment of March 31 in the blasphemy on social media case.

A single bench of IHC, comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, conducted hearing of the matter and directed television channels to fulfil their obligations regarding 10 percent of airtime to be spared for public service messages, warning they should get ready to face consequences in case of failure.

In his verdict, Justice Siddiqui had stated the additional attorney general placed draft bill for amending the “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2010,” by adding to it blasphemy and pornography as offences. The comparative statement showing existing and proposed provisions of the act ibid had also been submitted.

“After certain observations made by this court, the additional attorney general conceded the proposed bill required certain clarifications as it is somewhat ambiguous. He further submitted that from today’s proceedings, he is convinced blasphemy and pornography are required to be brought into the definition clause under Section 2 of the act ibid and, in addition to punishment provided under Chapter 15 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, (Act No XLV of 1860), a separate punishment is required to be provided,” the court had held.

The judgment had said, “When asked about the amendments with regard to false accusation in respect of blasphemy declared by the trial court, the additional attorney general stated that on reading the judgment and clarifications made today, proper measures shall be taken along with above-mentioned proposed amendments.

It has also been informed that amendments in the Schedule of FIA Act have already been placed before the cabinet, which is scheduled to meet on 26-12-2017 and in the meeting, item No 1 is amendment of schedule extending jurisdiction in respect of Chapter 15 of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 (Act No.XLV of 1860).”

It had added, “Rizwan Malik, special secretary/head of the committee, submits that some progress has been made in respect of working of NGOs advancing foreign countries’ agenda. He is directed to submit an independent report in this regard, showing steps taken and measures adopted pursuant to the judgment dated 31-03-2017.”

Justice Siddiqui had written, “On court’s call, DG FIA has appeared. When this court asked him as to whether his establishment has the capacity and infrastructure to deal with the issue of blasphemy and pornography, he answered in affirmative, but added that in order to strengthen the establishment and improve working, some help is required from the federal government. He is directed to schedule a meeting with Rizwan Malik, special secretary, and place all requirements/demands in writing.”

“During the hearing, it was informed by the counsel for the PTA that the authority was working without its chairman; therefore, working of day-to-day charge was looked after by Abdul Samad, Member (C&E), who is in attendance,” the verdict had stated.

“Pemra shall submit report showing details about all channels, which in requirement of code of conduct, are providing 10 percent of airtime for public service messages,” the verdict had read.

The blasphemy case was heard and finally decided by Justice Siddiqui on August 11. On March 31, in the hearing of this case, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf had appeared before the court.

The IHC bench, while addressing him, had said there were no laws regarding blasphemy, pornography and false accusations of blasphemy in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016’. Had there been laws in the said act, the situation might not have reached this point. It is utmost necessary to form laws that no one could accuse another person for false accusations of blasphemy, it had averred.

In the main petition, Petitioner Salman Shahid, through his counsel Muhammad Tariq Asad advocate, had been seeking blockage of blasphemous pages on social media and directions for the government to initiate legal proceedings against the page administrators.



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