LAHORE: ‘Controversy’ over the Provincial Assembly (Privileges) (Amendment) Bill 2021 that provides for punishment to a bureaucrat for breach of a privilege of the house, any of its committee or a member, has deepened as the Punjab and federal governments have ‘bowed down to the pressure’ exerted by the civil bureaucracy.
Conceding to the pressure and recommendation of the Punjab and federal governments, the governor has rejected the Provincial Assembly (Privileges) (Amendment) Bill 2021 and returned it to the Punjab Assembly speaker for being in contravention of Article 66 (3) and Article 10-A of the Constitution.
In its original form, the bill passed by the Punjab Assembly on June 29, also stipulated punishment to a journalist for breach of a privilege of the house, any of its committee or a member. However, the proposed action against journalists was withdrawn through an amendment moved in the Punjab Assembly following a massive protest demonstration organised by various journalist organisations.
Sources say the federal and Punjab governments, as the bureaucracy pleaded with them, realised that any law that would push the officials against the wall, would not work since the PTI government had so far not been able to win its confidence and persuade the bureaucrats to work in top gear. They say the bureaucrats were already working at slow pace with a caution that they should not do anything that would entail any notice from the NAB, FIA and anti-corruption establishment.
Sources say bureaucracy ‘reigns supreme’; Sarwar makes a raft of observations
Sources say the governor made a number of observations and returned the bill to the PA speaker on Thursday following instruction from Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
Governor Chaudhry Sarwar stated that the amendment in Section 11C of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab Privileges Act 1972 (II of 1972) with inclusion of words “excluding media persons” could not be made in isolation until the Schedule appended with the Act was also amended with reference to acts and omissions pertaining to publishing and reporting.
The governor says the bill also needs to be examined in the context of Articles 8, 10, 10-A and 25 of the Constitution.
The governor states that the “Preamble” of the Privileges Act 1972 has been changed in terms of Article 66(2), whereas the spirit of Article 66(2) seems to be framing a new law under the 1973 Constitution.
“A new enactment/ law was required instead of amendment in a law under the Interim Constitution of 1972 that will resultantly stand repealed,” the governor says.
The governor also states that through amendments in Section 11 B, C & D of the Act, the Judicial Committee of the Assembly had been authorised to try offences and award punishments for the offences punishable under this Act. Appeal against any order passed under this
Act shall lie before the speaker within 30 days, whose decision shall be final. In this regard, it is pertinent to mention that these provisions are contradictory to Article 66(3) and Article 10-A of the Constitution. Similarly, in the Schedule appended with the Act ibid, punishments against different acts and omissions have been mentioned, which is inconsistent with the Constitution.
In the meanwhile, Speaker Parvez Elahi lambasted the civil bureaucracy for not producing PTI MPA Nazir Chauhan despite the fact that his production orders were issued.
Sources say Mr Elahi was dismayed by the development and warned the bureaucrats that they would be made to follow the instructions of the assembly.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2021