The National Assembly passed the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023, on July 31 aimed at penalising individuals with a potential five-year imprisonment term for disclosing sensitive information concerning national security or the armed forces.

Separately, the Official Secrets Act was greenlit which is aimed to empower intelligence agencies to raid and detain any citizen, even under suspicion of them breaching the law.

A day earlier, it was reported that President Arif Alvi had assented to both bills after contentious provisions were removed by parliament due to strong objections from rights advocates and senators. The bills were officially marked as laws.

However, earlier today, President Alvi denied signing Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023, claiming that his staff “undermined” his orders.

This development has led to a debate on Article 75(1) which suggests that there are two ways in case the president doesn’t assent to the bill.

What is Article 75(1)?

It should be noted that the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023, bill was sent to the president on August 1 for approval whereas it was received the following day on August 2.

Subsequently, the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was sent to the president on August 8 and received on the same day for approval.

According to Article 75(1) of the Constitution, the president shall give his assent to the approved bill of parliament within 10 days of its receipt.

“In the case of a Bill other than a Money Bill, return the Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) with a message requesting that the Bill or any specified provision thereof, be reconsidered and that any amendment specified in the message be considered,” read Article 75(1)(b) of the Constitution.

The president objected to the said bills after a constitutional period of 10 days.

Under Article 75, the bill must be approved by the joint session after being sent back by the president. After approval by the joint session, the bill is again sent to the president for approval.

“When the President has returned a Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), it shall be reconsidered by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in joint sitting and, if it is again passed, with or without amendment, by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), by the votes of the majority of the members of both Houses present and voting, it shall be deemed for the purposes of the Constitution to have been passed by both Houses and shall be presented to the President, and the President shall give his assent within ten days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given,” it states.

Furthermore, if the president does not approve the bill within 10 days it then turns into a law.

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