ISLAMABAD: A bill seeking a separation between the judiciary and the executive branch of the government and clipping judicial powers being enjoyed by certain bureaucrats in Islamabad was tabled in the Senate on Monday.

The bill — presented by Senator Irfanul Haq Siddiqui and titled ‘Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act 2021’ — seeks various amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1898. It has been referred to Senate’s standing committee concerned for further deliberation.

In his speech while presenting the bill, Mr Siddiqui said giving judicial powers to government officers violated the Constitution and was tantamount to contempt of the judiciary.

In Islamabad, assistant commissioners and deputy commissioners enjoyed such powers that they could send anyone to jail, he said, adding that the judiciary was a separate and specialised subject and it should be dealt with by judicial officers, not by bureaucrats.

He said assistant and deputy commissioners were administrative officers, but in Islamabad a deputy commissioner acted as an administrative officer and heard various cases as a judicial magistrate.

The senator said several courts in the country had already discouraged such practices and the provinces had practically ended the magisterial system, but the situation in Islamabad did not change.

The 124-year-old CrPC was a relic of colonial rules, under which the local administration had been used as a tool by rulers to crush the rights of an “enslaved” nation, the senator said and pleaded for approval of the bill.

Reacting on the bill, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said that though the government did not support the bill, it should be referred to the committee for further deliberation. Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani then put the bill to voice vote and referred the bill to the standing committee concerned.

The statement of object and reasons of the bill said: “The Constitution of Pakistan in Article 175(3) says, ‘The judiciary shall be separated progressively from executive within [fourteen] years from the commencing day’.

“The said article guarantees the independence and separation of the judiciary from the executive branch of the government. Originally, the Constitution provided a period of three years for the separation but later the period was enhanced to 14 years through constitutional amendments.”

The statement added that there were certain provisions in the prevailing legal system compromising the spirit of the said article, and special judicial magistrates were among them. Granting judicial power to special judicial magistrates impeded the impartial administration of justice, it said.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2022

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