Bar bodies oppose amendments to Defamation Law -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Bar bodies oppose amendments to Defamation Law

KARACHI – By introducing amendments to the Defamation Ordinance, the ruling establishment is seeking to further blacken an existing black law, said a resolution adopted by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of bar councils and bar associations of the country.

“The object of the amendment appears to be to foreclose criticism of public functionaries by the fourth pillar of a democratic dispensation. The amendments relating to enhancement of punishment and minimum compensation are attempts to muzzle the press and freedom of speech. It is abominable that while information about government’s working is neither forthcoming nor readily available even under the toothless ‘Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002’, a new sword is being dangled over the press”, said a resolution adopted by the JAC which met in the hall of Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) at Karachi with Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Rasheed A Razvi in the chair on August 8.

The JAC called upon all democratic forces to resist the draconian amendments that are solely calculated to curtail the liberties of free speech and independence of the press. The resolution said inclusion of ‘distributors’ in the list of those liable for the offence of libel is absolutely absurd and will lead to exploitation of hawkers and newspaper sellers.

The JAC adopted six separate resolutions in respect of the proposed amendments in Defamation Ordinance 2002 and Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Act 1973, elevation of high court judges to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in violation of the principle of seniority and military operation in Balochistan in violation of fundamental rights of the people of Balochistan. In yet another resolution the JAC condemned attack on senior lawyer Wahabul Khairi in Rawalpindi and urged the government to hold thorough and impartial inquiry into the incident. The committee decided to observe black days on August 13, 2004 against military operation in Balochistan and on September 7, 2004 against elevation of high court judges in violation of principle of seniority.

The resolution of the JAC on proposed amendments in Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973 said earlier PBC had recommended repeal of section 54 of the Act which vests powers in superior courts to suspend an advocate from practice. Instead of paying heed to the will of the legal fraternity, the government had chosen to move a bill that seeks to enlarge such powers of superior courts. “It is a considered view of the JAC that amendments are being introduced to enable selective action against advocates who are in the forefront of the democratic struggle. The proposed amendment confers powers in the superior courts to usurp the existing jurisdiction of bar councils to take disciplinary action against their member lawyers, said the resolution.

In its resolution on elevation of high court judges, the JAC said the appointments of judges in Supreme Court of Pakistan and on the posts of high court chief justice were made in clear violation of the recommendations of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. “It was right of Justice Javed Buter and Justice Tassadduq Hussain Jilani to become chief justice of their respective high courts while the press reports that chief justice of Lahore High Court, Justice Choudhry Iftikhar Hussain was retained because he had some work regarding ‘Access to Justice Programme’ is absolutely absurd and is mockery of judicial system”, said the resolution. The JAC decided to observe Protest Day on September 7, 2004 throughout the country.

The JAC also expressed its utter dismay over what it said failure of the government agencies to control and maintain law and order in the country. In a separate resolution, it noted with concern the reported military operation in Balochistan on the pretext of law and order situation and registration of cases against nationalist leaders of Balochistan. It said the statements of General Musharraf, Major-Gen Shaukat Sultan and Faisal Saleh Hayat are not only devoid of political maturity but were also contributing to worsen the situation in Balochistan. The JAC resolved to observe Protest Day throughout the country on August 13 against the said military operation.

In another resolution the JAC condemned attack on senior lawyer Wahabul Khairi and called upon the government to hold impartial inquiry into the incident. Through yet another resolution the JAC asked its sub-committee to consider modalities of the trial of those who subverted the constitution and submit its report in the next meeting of JAC.

Those who attended the meeting include Chairman Executive Committee of PBC Qazi Muhammad Jamil, President Supreme Court Bar Association Tariq Mehmood, members PBC Hafiz Abdul Rehman Ansari and Abdul Haleem Pirzada, Vice Chairman Sindh Bar Council Yasin Khan E Babar, Vice Chairman Balochistan Bar Council Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani, President Lahore High Court Bar Association Ahmad Awais, Vice President Balochistan Bar Association Amel Khakar, Vice President Supreme Court Bar Association Muhammad Ikram Choudhry, and lawyer leaders Maulvi Muhammad Sultan Alam Ansari, Imdad A Awan, Illahi Bakhsh Kehar, Mehmoodul Hasan, Muhammad Yasin Azad, Muneer A Malik, Mustafa Lakhani and Asadullah Khan advocates.
Source: The News