LAHORE - Punjab Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill for guidance of the courts dealing with offences relating to terrorism, religious extremism and crimes against children under the age of 14.  Titled, “The Punjab Sentencing Bill, 2019”, it also deals with cases involving crimes committed on the basis of political inclinations, religious views and cultural outlook of citizens.

The new legislation lays down the factors to be considered by the courts while awarding sentences in specific category of offenses. According to section-3 of the bill, the provisions of this legislation shall be applicable only in cases where a time range of imprisonment is a punishment. It shall not be applicable in cases where capital punishment is provided within the range of punishments.

Section -4 of the bill makes it binding on the court to have regard to the purposes of sentencing before awarding the sentence. Once the bill becomes an Act of the Assembly after getting assent of the Punjab Governor, the courts while determining the sentence shall take into account the purposes like the punishment of offenders; reduction of crime including its reduction by deterrence; reform and rehabilitation of offenders; protection of the public; and making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their offences.

Legislation will guide judiciary in cases of terrorism and crimes against children

Also, in determining a sentence, the court shall take into account the seriousness of an offence. And while determining the seriousness of an offence, the court shall consider the aggravating and mitigating factors proved during the trial.

The bill also includes special provisions about sentencing. If the court is sentencing or otherwise dealing with an offender in a case involving serious violence against a child under the age of 14 years, it shall consider the following facts before announcing a final verdict: the defenselessness of the victim; any serious or long-term physical or psychological effect on the victim in relation to any harm resulting from the offence; the magnitude of the breach of any relationship of trust between the victim and the offender; threats by the offender to prevent the victim reporting the offence; and, deliberate concealment of the offence from authorities. The court shall treat these facts as aggravating factors and award the punishment accordingly.

And, if a court is determining the sentence of an offence where the offender demonstrated continued hostility towards the victim because of his religious beliefs or the religious denomination to which the victim belonged or the

Offence is religiously aggravated, the court shall treat these facts as an aggravating factor; and state in the judgment that the offence was so aggravated.

The government will also make rules under this bill to further simplify the procedures for better understanding of the courts.