The Law Ministry has proposed the insertion of a new offence in the Pakistan Penal Code related to ridiculing the armed forces under the Criminal Law Reforms 2021.
As many as 225 central and 644 sub-amendments have been proposed for reforms in the criminal justice system by the law ministry headed by Dr Farogh Naseem.
These laws include the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, the Pakistan Penal Code 1860, Qanun-e-Shahadat Order 1984, Control of Narcotics Act 1997, Railways Act 1890, Pakistan Prison Rules 1978, Islamabad Capital Territory Criminal Prosecution Service (Constitution, Functions and Powers) Act 2021 and Islamabad Capital Territory Forensic Science Agency Act 2021.
The proposed reforms are being reviewed by the cabinet committee.
A new section has been proposed in the draft of the ‘criminal law reforms,’ in which person may be liable for an offence, if (s)he ridicules, brings disrepute or defames the armed forces of Pakistan.
The draft has proposed the insertion of Section 500-A in the PPC, states that “whoever intentionally ridicules, brings into disrepute or defames the armed forces of Pakistan shall be guilty of an offence punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fines which may extend to five hundred thousand rupees or both.”
It was also proposed that utterances under Sub-Section 1 directed against the armed forces of Pakistan as an institution shall be prosecuted by the military through its Judge Advocate General Branch, with officers as witnesses.
The criminal law reforms are also seeking an amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1898 on requirements of an officer in-charge of a police station; he should not be below the rank of a sub-inspector and should at least hold a degree of bachelor and its equivalent. Currently, an officer in-charge of a police station is above the rank of a constable. It is proposed that the provincial government or the federal government may prescribe the criteria of police stations with a particular threshold of caseload. Accordingly, the officer in-charge of a police station must at least be the rank of an assistant superintendent.
The law minister believes that this amendment can substantially decrease incompetence and corruption.
It has also been suggested that the public should give information to authorities in respect of Qatl-e-Amd not liable to Qisas under Section 209 of the PPC.
There is also a provision on the arrest of women; her submission to custody on oral intimation of arrest shall be presumed. It is proposed that unless the circumstances otherwise required or unless the police officer was a female, the officer shall not touch the suspected woman while making her arrest.
New Arrest Procedures
Amendments to Section 54-A in Code of Criminal Procedure have been proposed for new arrest procedures. First, the detenu must be informed of the grounds of arrest and their family must be informed no later than 24 hours. The detenu shall be given access to the lawyer of their choice or if they cannot afford lawyer, they must be given a state counsel to consult. The conversation between the detenu and their lawyer shall remain private and confidential.
Under Section 54-AA, if the arrest is required, the police officer will send a notice to the accused. If the accused complies with such notice, then there is no need for arresting them. However, if they fail to comply, then the police officer may arrest them for the alleged offence mentioned in the notice.
It is also proposed that the police officer making an arrest must identify themselves first.
A new section is proposed through which the provincial government can establish control rooms in every district. The notice board of a control room shall display the names and the addresses of the persons arrested and the name and designation of the police officers who made the arrests.
A new section is proposed creating a right for the accused to meet an advocate of their own choice during interrogation.
It was also proposed that if an arrest was made without a warrant, the officer in-charge of the police station should communicate this fact. They must provide in writing the grounds of the arrest. If the accused is arrested for a bailable offence, they shall be informed about their right to be released on bail.
The magistrate is to satisfy themselves that the police had complied with all the requirements otherwise they would report the delinquent police officers to the competent authority for appropriate action.
In case the arrested person is a woman, she would be examined by a female doctor and a copy of the medical report will be provided to the suspect.
This will substantially check police torture during custody.
It has been proposed that the relief under Section 22-A (6) shall not be invocable unless all remedies under the Code had been exhausted first.
The law minister in his briefing to the cabinet on September 14 had observed that Section 22-A (read with section 154) were major problems.
When the police do not register cases, then courts were flooded with Section 22-A applications and thus they are left no time to attend to other cases.
Now if an SHO does not register a case, the matter would be referred to an SP — automatically reducing the load of Section 22-A cases.