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Acting Punjab Governor Approves Controversial Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024

In a significant development, Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, the Acting Governor of Punjab and Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, has approved the contentious Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024. The bill, which was initially tabled in the Punjab Assembly, faced resistance from Governor Sardar Salim Haider, who declined to sign it. In response, the PML-N reached out to President Asif Ali Zardari, who advised the governor to take a leave of absence.

Following the governor’s refusal to participate, he took a week-long leave, during which Speaker Malik Ahmad Khan assumed the role of Acting Governor. On June 7, he signed the bill. The legislation has since been forwarded to the Ministry of Law, which is expected to issue a formal notification soon, enacting the defamation law in Punjab.

Key Provisions of the Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024

The Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024, introduces significant changes to defamation laws in the province. It allows individuals to initiate legal action for defamation without needing to prove actual damage or loss. If defamation is proven, the bill presumes general damages.

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Additionally, the bill addresses the spread of fake news on social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It allows for defamation cases against individuals spreading misinformation on these platforms.

To expedite the legal process, special tribunals will be established to hear defamation cases, with a mandate to deliver verdicts within six months.

Criticism and Opposition

The bill has faced significant criticism from opposition parties and journalists, who have labeled it a ‘black law’. They argue that all proposed amendments by the opposition were rejected, raising concerns about the potential for misuse and the suppression of free speech.

Despite the backlash, the Punjab Defamation Bill, 2024, is set to become law, marking a pivotal moment in the province’s legal landscape.

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