ISLAMABAD: After the Senate, the National Assembly on Wednesday also gave its nod to a bill that seeks separation of the judiciary and the executive, clipping the judicial powers of assistant commissioners, the deputy commissioner and the commissioner of Islamabad.

Now, after the approval of President Dr Arif Alvi, amendments to the 124-year-old Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1898 will finally be made.

The NA unanimously passed a bill titled ‘The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act 2022’ moved by MNA Shaza Fatima Khawaja.

Last month, the bill, introduced by Senator Irfan Siddiqui, was passed by the Senate.

Bill to become law after ratification by president

Now, the bill will go to the president for ratification and once ratified, it will become law.

When contacted, Senator Siddiqui told Dawn that approval for change in the centuries-old colonial law from both houses of the parliament is an important milestone.

“Today, a key obligation of the Constitution of Pakistan has been fulfilled,” he said and added that now officials of the Islamabad district administration will no longer have the power to remand or send anyone to jail.

However, he said, these officials will continue to exercise administrative powers in order to prevent minor crimes but will not be able to exercise judicial powers. The PML-N lawmaker further said for this purpose, judicial magistrates will be appointed and will be answerable to the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

He said before partition of the subcontinent, local administrations were used as a tool by rulers to crush their opponents.

But, unfortunately, the law still remains valid in Pakistan and “today, after Senate, National Assembly too passed it to make changes to colonial law.”

It is relevant to note here that Mr Siddiqui was jailed for a couple of days in 2019 on the directive of an assistant commissioner (AC) for a case of house rent.

He was accused by police for not informing them while renting his house, however, Mr Siddiqui (who later become Senator) at that time had stated that the house in question belonged to his son and he had nothing to do with it, alleging that the PTI government was victimising him.

The senator said assistant commissioners and the deputy commissioner in Islamabad enjoyed powers to send anyone to jail, 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 also heard different cases as a judicial magistrate.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill stated: “The Constitution of Pakistan in Article 175(3) says the judiciary shall be separated progressively from executive within three and [later extended] 14 years from commencing days.

“The article guarantees independence and separation of the judiciary from the executive branch of the government. Originally, the Constitution provided a period of three years for separation but later the period was enhanced to 14 years through amendments. Yet there are certain provisions in the prevailing legal system in which special judicial magistrates are conferred with judicial powers that impede the impartial administration of justice.”

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2022

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