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Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expresses grave concern over the Defamation Bill 2024

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grave concern over the Defamation Bill 2024.

HRCP chairman in a statement said that the content and language of the bill is “troubling on several counts”.

“First, it proposes a parallel structure to adjudicate claims of defamation. HRCP has consistently decried special parallel judicial structures on the grounds that they invariably violate fundamental rights and other universally accepted norms governing the fair functioning of the judiciary,” the statement said.

Second, the bill proposes to set up defamation tribunals while empowering the government to appoint judges at higher allowances and benefits than what is available to the existing provincial judiciary functioning at the district level, it noted.

Third, the statement said all defamation claims have to be resolved within a short span of 180 days. The bill proposes authorizing defamation tribunals to issue preliminary decrees to the tune of PKR 3 million—without trial—immediately on receiving a defamation claim. “This will be a huge blow to freedom of expression and dissent. Such orders are likely to be passed without following due process and ensuring fair trials”.

Fourth, the draft law creates a special category of holders of constitutional office, such as the prime minister, chief justices and military chiefs, among others. Defamation claims pertaining to these categories will be heard by special one-member tribunals comprising a judge of the Lahore High Court.

“This provision violates the principle of equality of citizens and equality before the law”, it added.

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