Sherry Rehman, MNA from Pakistan Peoples Party has submitted this Amendment Bill in National Assembly of Pakistan. With her consent, this Bill is put here for public scrutiny. Please feel free to give your feedback, it will be shared not only with her, but with the members of Standing Committee on Law, Justice, Human Rights and Parliamentary Affairs.
AMENDMENTS TO THE BLASPHEMY LAWS ACT 2010
National Assembly of Pakistan
Amendments in Offences Related to Religion : Amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code
Whereas the Constitution of Pakistan Article 25 provides for equal protection of all citizens under the law; whereas the founder of Pakistan, Quaid e Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared in his address to the First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11th August 1947 that all Pakistanis shall be equal under the law, this bill, in pursuit of these objectives seeks to amend the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and Criminal Procedure Code 1898, in the following ways:
1. Short Title and Commencement: 1]This Act may be called the Review of the Blasphemy Laws Act,
2010. 2] It shall come into force at once.
2. In section 295 A of the Pakistan Penal Code the words, “ten” shall be deleted and the word “two”
- In section 295 B of the Pakistan Penal Code the words, “shall be punishable with imprisonment to life” be deleted and the words, “shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine or with both” be substituted.
- In section 295 C the words, “shall be punished with death” shall be deleted and the words, ‘’shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine or with both” be substituted.
- In sections 295 C, 298A of the Pakistan Penal Code after the word, “Whoever’’, the words “maliciously, deliberately and intentionally” be added.
- In section 298B of the Pakistan Penal Code after the word ‘’or by visible representation”, the words, ‘’maliciously, deliberately and intentionally”’ be added.
- A section 203 A be added to the Pakistan Penal Code to say, “Anyone making a false or frivolous accusation under any of the sections of 295A, 295B and 295C, of the Pakistan Penal Code shall be punished in accordance with similar punishments prescribed in the section under which the false or frivolous accusation was made.’’
- A section 298 E shall be added to the Pakistan Penal Code saying, “Any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination or violence shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extent to seven years, or with fine or with both.”
9. In section 30 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the words, ‘’as well as offences falling under sections 295A, 295B and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code’’, be added after the words, ‘’punishable with death.’’
10. Section 190 of the CrPC be amended and subsection (3) be added containing the words, “All offences falling within sections 295A, 295B and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code shall exclusively be taken cognizance of by the Court of Sessions and tried by the High Court”.
11. Section 193 of the CrPC be amended to add, ‘’and as expressly provided for under section 190 of the Code’’ after the words, ‘’unless the case has been sent to it under section 190, subsection (2).’’
12. In section 201 of the CrPC a Proviso be added after 201(2) to say, ‘’provided that if a complaint is made in writing to a Magistrate under sections 295A, 295B and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, he shall not take cognizance of it and forward it to the proper Sessions Court with an endorsement to that effect and in case the complaint has not made in writing, such Magistrate shall direct the complainant to the proper Sessions Court.’’
13. Section 202 of the CrPC be amended to add subsection (5) to say, ‘’Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding subsections any complaint made under sections section 295A, 295B and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code shall be filed at and taken cognizance of by a Court of Sessions and tried by the High Court, whereas the procedure laid down in the preceding subsections shall be followed.’’
14. Amendments to Schedule II of the Criminal Procedure Code shall be as follows:
|Section||Offence||Whether the Police may arrest without warrant or not||Where a warrant or a summons shall ordinarily issue in the first instance||Whether bailable or not||Whether compoundable or not||Punishment under the Pakistan Penal Code||By what Court triable|
|295A||Use of derogratory remarks, etc in respect of holy personage||Shall not arrest without warrant||Warrant||Bailable||Not compoundable||Imprisonment of either description for 2 years or fine or both (it was 2 years before amendment in 1991)||High Court|
|295 B||Difiling etc. of copy of Holy Quran||Ditto||Ditto||Non-bailable||Ditto||Imprisonment of either description for 5 years or fine or both||High Court|
|295 C||Use of derogratory remarks, etc in respect of the Holy Prophet||Ditto||Ditto||Ditto||Ditto||Imprisonment of either description for 10 years or fine or both||High Court|
|203 A||Anyone making false or frivolous accusations under sections 295A, 295B and 295C etc.||May arrest without warrant||Ditto||Ditto||Ditto||Imprisonment of either description for 3 years or fine or both in case accusation made under 295A; imprisonment of either description for 5 years or fine or both in case accusation made under section 295B; imprisonment of either description for 10 years or fine or both in case accusation made under section 295C.||Court of Sessions.|
|298 E||Advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination or violence etc.||May arrest without warrant||Ditto||Ditto||Ditto||Imprisonment of either description for seven years or with fine or both||Court of Sessions|
STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES AND REASONS
Amendments to the Blasphemy Laws are long overdue. These must include a rationalization of punishments under the offences relating to religion. Vague terminology in these laws has led to their wide mis-use for the persecution of others. The sentences must be reduced so that the incentive to use these laws to settle scores is taken away. Sentences that promote justice rather than open the doors to religious persecution will be respected and applied properly, and it is these that must be rationalized in pursuit of Constitutional guarantees for protection of all citizens under the law. The ascertainment of malicious intent must also be made when charges are brought against an accused person. The absence of demonstrating premeditation in all such charges has led to a widespread abuse of such laws, where innocent people have suffered trials and tribulations at the hands of their accusers who use these laws to pressure the accused for personal or material gain. The absence of such a clause does not take into account the concept of mens rea, which is central to procedures in all criminal offences.
It is equally important that those making false or frivolous allegations under section 295A, 295B and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code must also be punished, as misuse of religion to harm others and put them through agony is a serious offence. The Pakistan Penal Code must also be amended to include a new section for making any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination or violence an offence.
The Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 are the major statutes relating to criminal law in Pakistan. While the PPC deals in defining all the offences and mentions their punishments, the Criminal Procedure Code acts as a procedural law, providing machinery for the punishment of offenders against the substantive criminal law. The two codes are read together, and amendments to the CrPC are essential to ensure the effectiveness of amendments to the PPC. Any bill seeking to make amendments that work for justice delivery on the ground must amend these two statutory codes together.
Amendments must be made in the Criminal Procedure Code to ensure protection of Pakistan’s minorities and vulnerable citizens, who routinely face judgments and verdicts at the lower courts where mob pressure is often mobilized to obtain a conviction. It must be ensured that a court of Sessions take cognizance of an offence made under sections 295A, 295B and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code on complaints filed before it, so that the complainant takes full responsibility of the consequences in case the accusations are false or frivolous. All complaints under sections 295 A, 295 B and 295 C should be made before a Court of Sessions and subsequently tried by the High Court, because trials by High Courts are likely to strengthen the possibility for justice. Given that the intent of this Bill is to avoid miscarriages of justice in the name of Blasphemy, it should be the aim of a just society, as enshrined in our Constitution and Islam, to try all such cases at the High Courts which are always under a higher degree of public scrutiny.
Given that one of the principle tenets of Islam is to ensure justice to all, it is incumbent to therefore amend these man-made laws introduced in Pakistan by a dictator’s Ordinance, without parliamentary consultation or public debate.
Member in Charge
Sherry Rehman, MNA