Senate body passes Bill decriminalising suicide attempt

ISLAMABAD – The Senate Standing Committee on Interior Thursday passed the Criminal Laws Amendment Bill which seeks abolishment of a colonial era law which decriminalises suicide attempt.

The committee that met in the chair of former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik approved the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017 moved by PPP Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja. The bill says that the suicide attempt by any person shall be considered as “decriminalised” under the law as it is always done with some depression or mental illnesses or disorders. The committee, which also seeks establishment of rehabilitation centres for such survivors, approved the bill with six votes in favour and one by PTI Senator Shibli Faraz was polled against the proposed law.

The proposed bill seeks amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. Earlier, the colonial era law defined the suicide attempt as a criminal offence. The mover of the bill had proposed that the suicide attempt should be decriminalized as it was made under some psychological disorders.

“Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both,” says the section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 dealing with the offence of the suicide attempt.

The statement of objects and reasons of bill says that the last stage of frustration often results in attempted suicide and it is the duty of the state to provide relief to its citizens instead of penalising those who may already be suffering. “It is, therefore, expedient to omit section 325 of the PPC, 1860, the entries relating to Section 325 in Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, and provide rehabilitation facilities”.

Senator Khawaja in an interview with The Nation said that the bill proposed omission of the offence of suicide attempt from the law. He further said that Britain and Indian had already abolished this law and these had omitted suicide attempt from the list of offences.

Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Professor Dr Qibla Ayaz informed the Senate committee that suicide was forbidden in Islam but the council had recommended regarding suicide attempt that the law should not be applied on those who were diagnosed with depression or any illness after the medical examination. “Those attempt suicide due to depression or any illness must be sent to rehabilitation center”, he said.

A panel of renowned psychiatrists also attended the meeting who highlighted the state of mind of frustrated individuals who opt to take their own life. They said that who so ever used to make suicide attempt should be treated as a patient rather than prosecuting them for a failed attempt. A psychiatrist said that suicide attempt was made in sheer frustration in most of the cases. 

The committee chairman was also of the view that suicide attempt was a disease rather than an offence. He said that many countries across the world and also the United Nations had recognized suicide attempt as a disease.

The Ministry of Interior opposed the bill saying omission Section 325 of PPC would encourage people to attempt suicide as the law was earlier being used as deterrence.

The committee also approved the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2017 moved by PPP senators Mukhtiar Ahmed Dhamra and Murtaza Wahab,

The chair formed a  special committee comprising Senator Muahmmad Ali Saif and Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi  to further elaborate “The Miscarriage of Justice (Compensation) Bill, 2017” moved by PTI Senator Azam Swati.

The committee also discussed the Criminal Laws (Amendment) (Protection of Rights of Transgender Persons) Bill, 2017 moved by PPP Senator Rubina Khalid. The committee heard Chairman CII on the matter who told the committee that council’s meeting was scheduled to be held on January 17 on the issue and the council would report to the committee in a few days after the meeting.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Islamabad Sultan Azam Taimori and SSP (Operations) Sajid Kayani briefed the committee on the incident of attack on journalist Ahmed Noorani. The victim was also present in the meeting who apprised the committee about his grievances. The chair directed the police chief to meet the victim journalist in person, listen to him and conclude the investigations into the case within next fifteen days.

Senior journalist and anchorperson Hamid Mir also attended the meeting as the committee had taken up the issue of pending inquiries regarding attacks on journalists. The meeting directed the interior ministry to submit a detailed report in the next meeting about the investigations conducted so far in the terrorist attack case on Mr Mir and also summoned Sindh police chief and provincial home secretary for the next meeting to know about the fresh details of the case.

The matter of sub-standard ink being used on front page of official passports was also discussed in the committee. The meeting directed the director general passports to resolve the matter and report back to the committee within a month.

The committee through a unanimously passed resolution strongly condemned the terror attack on Bethel Memorial Church Quetta on December 18, 2017 in which many innocent people were killed. The meeting observed one minute silence to pay homage to the victims of terrorist attack. The meeting recommended awarding “Sitara-e-Shujaat” to the on-duty security guard who killed the suicide bomber and averted a major damage. The meeting also demanded from federal and provincial governments to enhance security of the churches across the country.

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