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Controversial New Defamation Law Enforced by Punjab Government

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The Punjab government has sparked controversy by implementing the new Punjab Defamation Act 2024 despite facing widespread criticism. The enactment of this law was signalled by the issuance of a gazette notification, a move that has drawn significant attention and debate.

The new Punjab Defamation Act 2024, signed by acting governor Malik Ahmad Khan, has introduced several significant changes. One of the key provisions is the authorization for tribunals to award damages of up to Rs 3 million before a trial, a major shift in defamation proceedings. The tribunal is also empowered to issue an interim order for damages without the need for a trial upon receiving a defamation petition, further streamlining the process.

Furthermore, the Act provides for the government to establish multiple tribunals to ensure the effective enforcement of the law. The specific scope and functions of these tribunals will be determined by the Punjab government through subsequent legislation.

The new law sets a strict timeline for the defamation tribunals, mandating them to resolve complaints within six months. This demonstrates the government’s commitment to expeditiously addressing defamation cases. A special tribunal has also been assigned the task of penalizing individuals involved in the dissemination of ‘fake news’ within the same six-month timeframe, a clear indication of the government’s stance against false and misleading information.

Under the provisions of the Defamation Act 2024, the authority of these tribunals is extensive, as courts are precluded from issuing injunctions to halt tribunal proceedings. This decisive power vested in the tribunals further underscores the far-reaching implications of the new law on defamation cases within the province.

Moreover, the Act allows any individual to submit a complaint to the tribunal within 60 days of the purported defamation incident, conferring broader access to legal recourse for those affected by defamatory remarks or content.

The enforcement of the Punjab Defamation Act 2024 has significantly altered the landscape of defamation proceedings within the province, prompting intense scrutiny and debate. While proponents argue that the law enables swift and effective resolution of defamation cases, critics raise concerns about potential misuse and limitations on freedom of speech and expression. The ramifications of this controversial legislation are anticipated to unfold in the coming months, with its impacts reverberating across legal, political, and societal spheres in Punjab.

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