Fact-check: Is the contempt of parliament bill proposing jail for criticism of the parliament?
No, the Contempt of Parliament Act, 2023, does not seek to criminalise criticism of the national assembly, a draft of the bill and a legal expert confirms.
Updated Tuesday May 23 2023
Posts circulating on social media claim that a new legislation seeks to introduce jail time and fines for anyone caught criticising the parliament or parliamentarians.
The claim is false.
On May 8, a verified Twitter account wrote that according to the new contempt of parliament act those who insult the parliament can be sentenced to six months in jail or be fined Rs1 million.
“Can anything be funnier?” the tweet added, “They are going to make criticism of public representatives an insult to the parliament.”
The tweet has received over 2,400 retweets and more than 5,000 likes, to date.
This story has accumulated thousands of interactions and has been shared by other Twitter users too, who seem to believe the claim.
On May 16, a social media user wrote: “Today, the government passed the contempt of parliament bill 2023 and sent a message to 220 million people that anyone who criticises the parliament will be punished.”
No, the Contempt of Parliament Act, 2023, does not seek to punish criticism of the national assembly, the senate or lawmakers, a draft of the bill and a legal expert confirms.
On May 16, Pakistan’s national assembly passed the Contempt of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) Bill, 2023. The bill will now need the approval of the senate and the president before it becomes law.
For now, the Act proposes six months imprisonment and Rs1 million fine or both for anyone found committing contempt of the parliament and it defines contempt as the following:
◉ If a person willfully breaches the privilege of the House, a member
◉ Willfully violates any law guarantying immunities or privileges to the members
◉ Willfully refuses or fails to obey an order of the House
◉ Refuses to give evidence or records a false statement before a Committee of the House
◉ Attempts to influence a witness by intimidation, threat of use of force to prevent him/her from providing evidence or documents
◉ Fails to provide any document or tempers a document before the House
Furthermore a person held in contempt will have 30 days to file an appeal before a joint sitting.
Geo Fact Check also reached out to a legal expert to weigh in on the matter.
Lawyer Saroop Ijaz confirmed that the new bill does not penalise criticism of the parliament or parliamentarians.
“Most of this [bill] relates to the bureaucracy and government departments and their cooperation,” he explained over the phone.
However, Ijaz added that some sections of the bill do need more clarity.
“A question can be raised on who will decide what the parameters will be for breach of privilege of the House. There needs to be more clarity here. But no, the bill does not punish blanket criticism of the parliament.”
With additional reporting by Fayyaz Hussain
Follow us on @GeoFactCheck. If our readers detect any errors, we encourage them to contact us at [email protected]