Pakistan court strikes down colonial-era sedition law

Lahore High Court annulled Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code

Lahore: A high court in Pakistan on Thursday struck down a colonial-era sedition law that criminalised criticism of the federal and provincial governments, terming it inconsistent with the Constitution.

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Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court (LHC) annulled Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) dealing with sedition, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Justice Karim pronounced the verdict in response to identical petitions seeking to annul the sedition law, the paper said.

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One of the petitions, filed by a citizen named Haroon Farooq, which was identical to all other pleas urged the court to declare Section 124-A of the PPC as “ultra-vires in terms of Article 8 of the Constitution being inconsistent with and in derogation of fundamental rights provided under Article 9, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 19, 19A of the Constitution”.

The law states: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Federal or Provincial Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”

It was argued in the petition that the sedition act was enacted in 1860 which is a sign of British colonial rule, Geo News reported.

The petition added that this law was used for slaves under which a case can be registered at anyone’s request.

It was stated in the petition that the Constitution of Pakistan gives every citizen the right to freedom of expression but still, Section 124-A is imposed for making speeches against the rulers.

According to the petition, the law has been recklessly used in Pakistan as a tool of exploitation to curb the right to free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

The petition said the law was serving as “a notorious tool for the suppression of dissent, free speech and criticism in free and independent Pakistan”.

Over the past few years, the petition argued, various politicians, journalists and activists had been booked under Section 124-A.

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