Anti-terror law made stiffer
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Monday amended the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997 because the government argued that changes were needed to counter terrorism at places of worship.
The amendments increased punishments for offences that fall within the precepts of the ATA. The opposition has already boycotted the proceedings, so no one opposed the amendments.
The Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATC) were empowered to try offences, including abduction or kidnapping for ransom and the use of fire or explosives in worship places irregardless of damage. The courts will also try those who are accused of firing or using explosives on the court’s premises. The courts were also empowered to order the impound of passports for anyone accused under the ATA.
An amendment said that the ATC would not make more than two consecutive adjournments during the trial. If the defence counsel did not appear after two consecutive adjournments, the court could appoint a state counsel for the defence of the accused.
Disciplinary action could be taken by the high courts concerned against any presiding officer of the court if they failed to comply with the amended law restricting more than two consecutive adjournments. Under the amended ATA, each high court will establish a special bench or benches consisting or not less than two judges to hear appeals against the decisions of the ATC. The special bench will also not grant more than two consecutive adjournments.
“(The bill) enhances both minimum and maximum punishments for acts of terrorism, limits the adjournments of cases and provides for appeals to be decided by special benches in the High Court,” the government said in a written statement attached to the bill.
Contempt of Court Bill: The NA passed the Contempt of Court Bill, 2004, to repeal the Contempt of Court Act, 1976, and define new punishments and jurisdictions of the bill.
Every superior court was empowered to punish those guilty of civil, criminal or judicial contempt of court. Under the bill, anyone committing civil contempt shall be punished with three months imprisonment and is liable to a fine of Rs 25,000.
The bill set six months’ imprisonment and a Rs 50,000 fine for those guilty of criminal contempt and four months imprisonment and a Rs 25,000 fine for those guilty of judicial contempt. The bill also defined the three types of contempt of court. The publication of a fair and substantially accurate account of what has transpired in a court or during a legal proceedings shall not constitute contempt of court. The court may, for reasons to be recorded in writing and in the interest of justice, prohibit the publication of information pertaining to legal proceedings.
Under the bill, fair comments on a judgment in a case that has finally been decided and is no longer pending do not make contempt of court.
“No person shall be guilty of contempt of court for making any statement or publishing any material pertaining to any matter which forms the subject of pending proceedings, if he is not aware of the pendency thereof,” it said.
The amendments provided that no person shall be found guilty of contempt of court, or punished accordingly, unless the court is satisfied that the contempt is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice or scandalises the court. A person guilty of contempt of court has 30 days to file an appeal against the conviction.