Senate panel clears bill seeking to decriminalise suicide attempt

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Interior passed ‘The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017’, seeking to replace a colonial penal law by decriminalising attempted suicide.
The bill says that instead of facing legal charges, those who attempt suicide should be treated as patients and provided the required interventions.
Senator Abdul Rehman Malik chaired the meeting that passed the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (The Criminal Laws [Amendment] Bill, 2017) moved by Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja with the amendment that attempted suicide will be considered as de-criminalised under the law only if someone is diagnosed with depression or any illnesses after going through a complete medical check-up.
Professor Dr Qibla Ayaz, Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), said suicide is forbidden in Islam but as per the council recommendation regarding attempted suicide, the law should not be applied over those who are diagnosed with depression or any illness.
“Those who attempt suicide due to depression or any other illness must be sent to some rehabilitation centre so that they can receive proper treatment,” he said.
After holding a detailed discussion, the committee conducted voting on the bill and passed it, with six-one vote. Senator Syed Shibli Faraz voted against the bill.
According to Section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, “Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
A panel of renowned psychiatrists, who were present in the meeting, highlighted the state of mind of frustrated individuals who opt to take their own lives, saying whosoever does it should be treated as a patient rather than prosecuting them for a failed suicide attempt.
They said attempted suicide can be an indicator of many other issues, the first and foremost being frustration, while informing the committee that many countries have abolished punishment for the offence.
Malik said attempted suicide is a disease rather than an offence. He said that many countries across the world and also the United Nations have termed suicide a disease.
According to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill, the last stage of frustration often results in attempted suicide and it is the duty of the state to provide relief to its citizens, instead of penalising those who may already be suffering.
It adds: “It is, therefore, expedient to omit Section 325 of the PPC, 1860, the entries relating to Section 325 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, and provide rehabilitation facilities.”
However, a senior official of the Ministry of Interior said that the ministry opposed the amendment bill as omission of Section 325 would encourage people to attempt suicide and therefore insisted that the section should remain there as deterrence.
The committee has also approved ‘The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2017’ moved by senators Mukhtiar Dhamra and Murtaza Wahab.
Malik formed a  special committee comprising Senator Muahmmad Ali Saif and Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi to further elaborate ‘The Miscarriage of Justice (Compensation) Bill, 2017’ moved by Senator Azam Swati.
The committee also discussed ‘The Criminal laws (Amendment) (Protection of Rights of Transgender Persons) Bill, 2017’ moved by Senator Rubina Khalid.
The committee heard the CII chairman on the matter who told the committee that the council’s meeting is scheduled to be held on January 17 on the issue after which a report will be submitted to the committee.
The committee also discussed the issue of substandard ink being used on the front page of official passports. DG Passports was directed to resolve and report back to the committee in a month.
The committee strongly condemned the terror attack on Bethel Memorial Church Quetta on December 18, 2017 and prayed for those who lost their lives in the attack. One minute silence was observed for the victims of terrorist attack as homage.
The committee appreciated the timely action by Balochistan police and a security guard on duty who killed the suicide bomber. The committee recommended awarding ‘Sitara-e-Shujaat’ for him for his “excellent professional judgment and courage.”
Senators Shibli Faraz, Shahi Syed, Tahir Mashhadi, Jehanzeb Jamaldini, Javed Abbasi, Muhammad Ali Khan Saif, Sardar Fateh Hassani, Rubina Khalid, Azam Swati, Mukhtiar Dhamra and Karim Ahmed Khwaja attended the meeting, besides senior official of Ministry of Interior.