ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Monday deferred consideration of a bill seeking to decriminalise suicide attempt after members exchanged arguments for and against the idea.

The criminal laws amendment bill proposing to amend the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to abolish punishment for those making attempts to commit suicide had been moved by Senator Shahadat Awan of the PPP, on the plea that this was done by people suffering from mental disorder who deserved medical treatment, not punishment.

Mr Awan said such people were generally denied immediate treatment and referred for medico-legal process, placing their lives at risk. Therefore, he said, attempt to commit suicide, which currently carried one-year jail term, should be decriminalised.

Chairman seeks input of Council of Islamic Ideology

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said that opinion of religious scholars should be sought before passage of the bill. He said that it should be thoroughly discussed so that an otherwise good bill was not opposed in a state of confusion.

Abdul Ghafoor Haidri of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) noted that attributing suicide to mental disorder was inappropriate as today the people facing abject poverty and joblessness were committing suicides under compelling circumstances. However, he said, suicide was prohibited in Islam.

The mover told the house that the Senate standing committee had approved the bill and ulema and psychological experts had also supported the bill.

He recalled that the house had passed a similar bill back on February 19, 2018, which had subsequently lapsed.

Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Wasim also said that the act of attempted suicide must not be co-related with mental disorder.

PML-N parliamentary leader in the Senate Azam Nazir Tarar said that 11 out of 13 members of the Senate committee had cleared the bill. He said the amendment should be passed to save lives lost due to procedural hitches in the way of treatment under the present law.

Senator Mohsin Aziz of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), who heads the Senate standing committee on interior, said depression could also be a reason behind suicide attempt, and noted that a jail term could cast a negative impact on behaviour of an individual suffering from depression.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said that he had no objection to the passage of the bill if a document proving that it had been approved by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) was available.

Senator Rjaz Chaudhry of the PTI was of the opinion that addressing the issue of medico-legal process and not abolishing the sentence was the solution.

JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza wondered how attempted suicide could be permissible when suicide was forbidden. He stressed that the inappropriate amendment be withdrawn.

Senator Faisal Javed of the PTI suggested that the bill be referred to the CII.

The consideration of the bill was deferred by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani with the directive of taking the CII’s input.

The house passed the Islamabad Rent Restriction Amendment Bill, Trade Organisation Amendment Bill and Code of Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill moved by Mohsin Aziz, Fauzia Arshad and Shahadat Awan, respectively.

Senator Talha Mehmood of the JUI-F introduced in the house a bill seeking to amend the Banking Companies Ordinance to do away with the restrictions placed on politicians for being politically exposed persons. “Why we are treated like criminals,” he asked and said that politicians found it hard to obtain a credit card or open a bank account due to the provision.

Rana Maqbool Ahmed of the PML-N introduced the Narcotic Substances Amendment Bill seeking to enhance punishment for wrongfully implicating a person in a drug case. He said that there should be a severe deterrent against the act as a wrongfully implicated person faced the threat of being awarded death sentence.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2021

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