ISLAMABAD: A proposed law to establish evening courts in the capital was approved by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Thursday.

After approving the bill, the committee decided to send the bill back to the lower house. It is expected that the bill will also be passed smoothly in the Senate, as no one opposed it in the standing committee.

Once passed by both houses of parliament – the National Assembly and Senate – the law would make Islamabad the first city in Pakistan to operate evening courts.

Bill sent back to lower house; if passed, it would make capital the first to operate evening courts

The committee, which met at Parliament House, began with fateha for the late MNA Mohammad Ayaz Soomro before proceeding with the agenda.

Establishing evening courts has been proposed as a way to overcome the pendency of cases, ensure speedy trials and diminish the workload on morning courts. The committee was informed that the bill was drafted by the law ministry, and that after evening courts are set up in Islamabad provincial governments will also follow suit.

The government has already sought the federal cabinet’s approval to initiate the process to establish evening courts in the city.

It was asked during the meeting where there were any proposals under the government’s consideration to keep the courts open round the clock to ensure speedy justice. However, the government’s side responded that there were no such proposals under consideration. The timings of the evening courts have also not yet been decided.

The committee was of the view that there was a huge pendency of cases against the present strength of judges, resulting in a backlog increasing day by day.

The proposed bill seeks to set up evening courts in the capital to dispose of cases quickly and clear the backlog.

Following the revival of military courts, the government has also formed a parliamentary committee for judicial reform to strengthen the judicial system so it can overcome weaknesses and handle terrorism-related cases in a better way.

The committee later unanimously confirmed the minutes of its previous meeting on Feb 8.

The committee also deferred all the other bills presented before it, including a few related to amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 that would replace the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with a National Accountability Commission.

Chaired by former law minister Zahid Hamid, the committee had worked to replace NAB with the commission mainly to amend controversial NAO provisions such as the plea bargain and voluntary return (of looted national wealth). However, work in this regard has been suspended since Mr Hamid’s resignation last November.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2018