LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Thursday suspended a Punjab government’s notification, which conferred judicial powers upon commissioners and deputy commissioners in the province.

Earlier, representing the petitioner, Barrister Momin Malik argued that under the Constitution the executive and judiciary were two separate entities and they couldn’t interfere into each other’s affairs.

He said the provincial government on June 17 last delegated powers of class-I magistrate to commissioner and deputy commissioners in violation of the law.

The counsel further argued that the impugned notification was ultra vires of Articles 2 and 9 of the Constitution as well as of section 14-A of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. He said as per judgments of the superior courts the executive couldn’t exercise judicial powers.

Buzdar may face contempt proceedings if impugned notification is set aside in the final judgement

Chief Justice Khan observed that the performance of the Punjab government was pathetic as the provincial administration had ruined the system.

The CJ also warned that Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar could be issued a contempt notice if the impugned notification was set aside in the final judgement.

Chief Justice Khan stayed the impugned notification and sought reply from the Punjab government by next hearing.

Under the government notification, the powers of class-I judicial magistrate were granted to all deputy commissioners, additional deputy commissioners (general), additional deputy commissioners for carrying out raids, trials and other subsidiary matters relating to price control/hoarding prevention, forests, mines and minerals, food adulteration, food safety, encroachments on public lands and lands owned by the governments, canal and drainage, dangerous driving etc.

Last week, the LHC took notice of the Punjab government’s notification of June 17 and barred the district and sessions judges of the province from holding/attending meetings with them ‘till further order’.

A senior officer of the Pakistan Administrative Services, who is holding an important position, has defended the Punjab government’s decision, saying, “The government notification is under Section 14-A of the CrPC, which is the power of the provincial government”.

He further argues that the new powers have been assigned to the field officers after amendments to the laws by the Punjab Assembly.

A senior police officer, commenting on the move, says conferring magisterial powers on the executive officers is against the constitution. He says the Balochistan High Court, under Justice Faez Isa, has already given a very detailed judgment on it.

“Actually, the constitution does not allow judicial powers to be exercised by anyone but the judicial officers,” he points out, adding that the superior judiciary can review any notification or law made by the elected houses.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020