Clauses regarding journalists removed from bill: Punjab PA passes Punjab Privileges (Amendment) Bill 2021

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab Privileges (Amendment) Bill 2021. The bill was presented by PML-Q MPA Sajid Ahmed Khan on private members day. The clauses regarding the journalists have been removed from the bill. The bill was presented in the House on the instructions of the Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervez Elahi.

Earlier, the provincial assembly amended a law to give it powers to arrest and prosecute journalists, bureaucrats and lawmakers. The Provincial Assembly of the Punjab Privileges (Amendment) Act, 2021 was tabled by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MPA Usman Mehmood as a private member’s bill.

Even though the bill was not on the agenda, and neither was it sent to the relevant committee to be examined, it was passed by majority in the House on Tuesday, without much resistance from the opposition parties.

Under the Act, sergeant-at-arms now has the power to arrest any person on the orders of the speaker, to prevent them from acting in any manner in breach of privileges within the precincts of the Assembly.

The arrests can be made without warrant, at any place within the ‘precincts of the Assembly,’ which has been defined as the assembly courtyard, hall, lobbies, press galleries, rooms etc.

The new law also allows for the use of “reasonable force as may be necessary” when making the arrests. Now, the speaker “can in writing direct the arrest and detention in custody” of any member, meaning a journalist, bureaucrat and/or any lawmaker.

The Act further calls for the establishment of a Judicial Committee of the Assembly, notified by the speaker, to try offences and award punishments and the sentence passed by the Committee will have the same status as a sentence awarded by the first class magistrate.

While speaking on the point of order, PML-N MPA Rana Manan Khan said government is not restoring the local government despite the orders of the Supreme Court. PML-N MPA Malik Ahmed Khan said government is disobeying court orders. While responding to the opposition members, Law Minister Raja Basharat said they accept the court orders but the matter is sub judice.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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