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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Tuesday rejected a private members’ bill seeking to enhance women’s representation in the district and civil courts.

The members of the committee headed by Javed Abbasi of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) were of the view that there was no need of the legislation at the moment since “adequate representation” of women in the judiciary was already being ensured through merit.

The bill, titled “the Civil Courts (Amendment) Bill 2016” had been moved by Senator Azam Swati of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in September.

Through the bill, the PTI senator had sought amendments to the Civil Courts Ordinance 1962 and suggested that one-third of the total number of additional district and civil judges “shall be women”.

It may be recalled that the same committee had previously rejected a similar constitution amendment bill moved by PPP’s Babar Awan seeking more representation of women in the higher judiciary.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons attached to Mr Swati’s bill stated that the bill strived to encourage and promote adequate representation of women in the judiciary. “Although there are women judges in the district courts, their number is far from adequate. It is thus the aim of this bill to acknowledge the representation of women as judges in the district court,” it says, adding: “A woman judge represents the lives, the sensibilities, and impacts of the law on more than half of the population of the country.”

Interestingly, the committee’s meeting was attended only by the four members of the PML-N, including its chairman, as no opposition member turned up at the meeting despite the fact that a number of opposition’s bills were on the agenda.

Due to the absence of the movers, the committee deferred consideration of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2016 and the National Commission for International Law and Commitments Bill 2016, moved by the PPP senators.

The committee also discussed the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) should be given autonomy and representation from all the provinces.

Senior officials of the Statistics Division informed the committee that the PBS enjoyed functional autonomy as per law and that its governing council already had representation from all the four provinces.

The Committee while expressing satisfaction over the reply of the Statistics Division disposed off the matter.

The meeting was attended by Senators Saleem Zia, Nehal Hashmi, Ayesha Raza Farooq and Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid. Secretary of the Ministry Karamat Hussain Niazi and officials of the other relevant departments were also present.

During the meeting, Law Minister Zahid Hamid once again criticised the opposition for doing politics over its bill seeking formation of a commission to hold inquiry into Panamagate scam.

The bill has been pending before the committee for the past over two months and it has failed to make a final decision on the issue due to a deadlock between the government and the opposition.

Published in Dawn December 14th, 2016