LHC strikes down ‘sedition’ law

Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court ruled that Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), 1860—the “sedition” law—was invalid because it violated the Constitution.

The adjudicator declared the choice which he had saved subsequent to hearing nitty gritty contentions on various petitions.

The petitioners had argued that the law was not only in violation of the Constitution but also of its “real essence,” and they had asked the court to strike it down.

The petitioners’ arguments were vigorously opposed by the federation’s lawyers, who argued that this section dealt with “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 disapproval towards, the federal or provincial government established by law shall be punished.”

They went on to say that, in accordance with the law, Section 124-A of the PPC was used to prevent anyone from engaging in these offenses.

However, the petitioners’ attorneys argued that the application of this section was equivalent to denying the people their fundamental right to free speech.

One of the pleas stated, “The instant petition calls in question the constitutionality, validity, reasonability, relevance, and legitimacy of Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, which criminalizes “Sedition.”

It went on to say, “It is most respectfully submitted that Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 is an unconstitutional law and ultra vires [of the] Constitution as [it] brazenly and patently contravenes Articles 8, 9, 14, 16, 17, 19 & 19-A of the Constitution.”

In addition, the petition stated that Pakistan had recklessly exploited Section 124-A of the PPC—also known as the sedition law—since 1947 to restrict the right to free speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution.

The plea stated, “Section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 is an illegitimate limitation and restriction on the legitimate, legal, and lawful exercise of the right of free speech and expression (in particular) and various other constitutional freedoms (in general).”

Under Section 124-A of the PPC, a number of politicians, journalists, and activists have been arrested over the past few years.

The number of FIRs registered under Section 124-A is getting more intense by the day.

Since nearly every criticism of the government or any state institution has been treated as a crime under Section 124-A, the Pakistani people have suffered greatly.

In a nutshell, the plea argued that Section 124-A was being used to suppress dissent, free speech, and criticism in a “free and independent” Pakistan.

Petitioner Haroon Farooq mentioned a few legislators who are currently facing sedition charges, such as tribal district MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, PTI leader Shahbaz Gill, and numerous prominent journalists and civil rights activists.

The candidates fought that the greater part of these cases were politically spurred and in view of obscure, equivocal, and unsure charges as well as emotional comprehension and understanding of the subversion regulation by the policing.

They requested that the court declare Section 124-A ultra-vires in accordance with Article 8 of the Constitution.

They claimed that it violated fundamental rights outlined in the Constitution’s Articles 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 19A and was therefore incompatible with them.

The plea ended with the words, “The respondents may kindly be restrained from registering any FIRs, or undertaking any coercive measure in sedition cases under Section 124-A [of the] PPC] in the interim and during pendency of the instant petition.”

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