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ISLAMABAD: The upper house of the Parliament, Monday, decided to refer to Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) a private-member bill that seeks to decriminalise attempted suicide and provides for treating it as a mental illness while Senate passed three other private-member bills.

Moved by Shahadat Awan from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2021 was introduced in Senate on September 27 this year and referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Interior. The committee passed this bill on November 16.

The bill seeks to amend Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 for the omission of Section 325 from both these laws.

“Suicide is the result of killing oneself most often as a depression or other mental illness. According to a study, there is one completed suicide in every 40 seconds while five per cent of the people in the world try to kill themselves at least once during their lifetime. Around 79 per cent suicides are from low or middle-income countries,” reads the statement of objects and reasons of this bill.

“Despite the crucial nature of the act of suicide and reasons behind it, Pakistan Penal Code, vide Section 325, incriminates the person committing it and prescribes the sentence of simple imprisonment for a term, which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

The issue of suicide ought to be dealt with as a disease and should be treated as one. Additionally, punishment is meant to create deterrence for a healthy person, not a mentally disturbed individual.

The objective of this amendment in Pakistan Penal Code is to decriminalise the suicide attempt by any person as it is always done with some depression, or mental illness or disorders,” it adds.

Speaking on the floor of the House, Awan, the PPP senator, said, “Attempted suicide is not a crime. It is a mental ailment and it should be treated accordingly.”

However, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) opposed the bill. Suicide is prohibited as per Islamic junctions, he said.

Parliamentary Affairs State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan said a mentally healthy person does not commit suicide. “If any person goes to take this extreme step, they must have some serious mental issues. We have to see that decriminalising attempted suicide does not end up promoting the trend of suicides,” he added.

Azam Tarar from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) said 80 per cent countries of the world have decriminalised attempted suicide.

Leader of the House in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem recommended that the opinion of religious scholars be sought on the bill.

Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani referred the bill to CII, saying that the relevant Senate committee would review the bill keeping in view CII’s input.

On September 2 this year, Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari informed the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights that Human Rights Ministry was working on decriminalising suicide, which, she said, was being done throughout the world.

“Suicide is a medical issue, not a criminal one, and it should be dealt with accordingly,” she said then.

The Senate also passed another Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2021, also moved by Awan, that seeks to streamline related procedures in criminal cases.

The Senate also passed The Islamabad Rent Restriction (Amendment) Bill 2021, moved by Mohsin Aziz from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which seeks to streamline the rent laws in Islamabad.

The Trade Organisations (Amendment) Bill 2021, moved by PTI’s Fawzia Arshad, was also passed by Senate. The bill seeks to resolve issues between government and private sector in the fields of trade and industry.

Meanwhile, the House prayed for Benazir Bhutto on her 14th death anniversary and several senators paid homage to the former prime minister.

The House is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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