What is Pakistan's sedition law that is now struck down by the Lahore High Court?
The provisions of Section 124A of the Pakistan Penal Code referred to as the "sedition law" has recently been invalidated by the Lahore High Court by Justice Shahid Karim. Before the event, Section 124A of the Pakistan Penal Code considered engaging in sedition or demonstrating disaffection against the government a crime.
On Thursday, Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court repealed Section 124A of the Pakistan Penal Code to answering back a myriad of petitions pleading to announce the provision of the Section as unconstitutional or even "ultra virus" the fundamental rights conferred in the Constitution under Article 9, 14, 115, 16, 17, 19 and 19A.
The sedition law in Pakistan
Sedition is defined under Section 124A of Pakistan's Penal Code as “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.”
Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court, declared the sedition law null and void in a single-judge bench. The move was not made out of the blue, rather it came after hearing a myriad of similar petitions that sought to repeal the sedition law.
The Contentions in the pleas
The contentions in the pleas that challenged the sedition law (Section 124A) argue that the Constitution confers every citizen to the right to freedom of speech and expression. The statute of sedition, on the other hand, punishes free speech that goes critical to the government. The punishment for such an act is life imprisonment.
Haroon Farooq was one of the people who filed a plea against the sedition law. He argued that Section 124A of the Pakistan Penal Code is nothing but a section that derogates the fundamental rights enlisted in Articles 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan.
One of the arguments said that the sedition law was used recklessly as a strong tool of exploitation to restrict the right to a free speech given under Article 19 of the Constitution. The plea contended that these restrictions are simply an illegitimate limitation on multiple other freedoms given in the constitution. The plea also stated how politicians, activists, and journalists were being booked for criticizing the government, for instance, Javed Hashmi (journalist) was sentenced to prison for 23 years under this provision.
India and the sedition law
The sedition law is the outcome of India and Pakistan's colonial rule. The colonial rule ended long before but the sedition law has been inherited by both India and Pakistan in their penal systems. Moreover, the sedition law is identical in both countries. The rationale behind the Sedition Law has been to curb political dissent at the time of the country's colonial struggles. However, in India, the provisions of the sedition law are under review.