ISLAMABAD: The Senate unanimously passed on Monday four important bills, including the one which makes honour-killing a non-compoundable offence.

It also cleared a bill envisaging punishment for elements responsible for torture and custodial death and another ensuring speedy justice to rape victims.

The upper house also passed a bill amending the Privatisation Commission Ordinance to ensure transparency in the process.

All the bills were moved by members of the main opposition PPP as private member’s bills and three of them by Sughra Imam, who is among the 52 senators retiring on March 11.

The bills were passed without any debate as the government did not oppose them, knowing that all of them had been thoroughly discussed by relevant standing committees and some of amendments suggested by the government had been incorporated.

The bills require approval of the National Assembly and presidential assent to become laws.

The so-called honour killing has been made a non-compoundable crime through amendments to Schedule 2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1898.

Sughra Imam, when contacted after approval of the bill, said since family members were found involved in honour killing cases, the rate of conviction was almost nil because in most cases, the accused being a member of the same family was pardoned by heirs of victim.

Anti-rape bill among four laws adopted

According to the bill “honour killings are common throughout Pakistan and claim lives of hundreds of victims every year”. It cites figures obtained from a women rights organisation, Aurat Foundation, stating that 432 women were reportedly killed in the name of honour in 2012, 705 in 2011, 557 in 2010, 604 in 2009 and 475 in 2008.

“These figures do not include unreported cases or, indeed, the number of men who are often killed alongside women in the name of honour,” says the bill. “Addressing the loopholes and lacunae in the existing laws is essential in order to prevent these crimes from being repeatedly committed.”

ANTI-TORTURE BILL: The Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape (Prevention and Punishment) Bill 2014 proposing imprisonment and fine for perpetrators of torture in custody and custodial rapes and death was tabled by PPP’s Farhatullah Babar.

The bill makes inadmissible as evidence statements obtained through torture besides prescribing life imprisonment and Rs3 million fine for custodial death or rape and a minimum of five years in jail and fine up to Rs1m for torture.

“No reason including a state of war, emergency, political instability or an order of a superior authority shall constitute a defence against torture,” according to the bill.

It defines “torture” as “inflicting physical or mental pain upon another person in custody, for obtaining any information or a confession or harassing and molesting a woman for this purpose.”

“Furthermore, any public servant or any other person who has a duty to act and either intentionally or negligently fails to prevent the commission of the offence of custodial death or custodial rape shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than seven years which may extend to 10 years and with fine which may extend to Rs1 million.”

The bill states that “no female shall be detained in order to extract information regarding the whereabouts of a person accused of any offence or to extract evidence from such female”. Moreover, according to the bill, no woman/girl will be taken or held in custody by a man and only a female public servant can lawfully take her into custody.

Under the bill, complaints of torture can be filed with the Federal Investigation Agency or a sessions judge against any person, including a public servant.

The bill has made it mandatory to complete investigation in complaints of torture in 14 days and trial in three weeks. It gives the right to appeal before a high court to a convict in 10 days. The court will be bound to decide such appeals in 30 days.

The bill suggests that complaints filed with malafide intent are punishable with imprisonment of up to one year with/or a fine of up to Rs100,000.

ANTI-RAPE LAWS: The bill amends different sections of the Pakistan Penal Code, the Qanoon-i-Shahadat Order and the CrPC to ensure speedy trial of accused in rape cases and suggests punishment for disclosing identity of rape victims.

It bans the publication of court proceedings “without the previous permission of such court”, suggesting a two-year imprisonment for those violating this section.

The bill proposes capital punishment for police personnel or other public servants found involved in rape of women in their custody.

It suggests three-year imprisonment to a “public servant” for failing “to carry out the investigation properly or diligently or failing to pursue the case in any court of law properly and in breach of his duties”.

Published in Dawn March 3rd , 2015

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