ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court should ask the federal government to seek its opinion about the legal status of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) in view of President Dr Arif Alvi’s statement that he had neither assented to the two bills nor specified the reasons for returning them to the Parliament for reconsideration, a petition filed in the apex court said on Tuesday.
The petitioner, Advocate Zulfikar Ahmed Bhutta, said it was necessary to determine the fate of the two laws at a time when the president said he had neither assented to nor returned the bills.
Moreover, there is a likelihood that an accused facing trial under the two amended laws may seek his acquittal by taking advantage of the loopholes on the grounds that the law has lost its legal standing due to the controversy, the lawyer told Dawn.
In a three-page petition, Mr Bhutta argued that the Supreme Court should order the federal government to invoke Article 186 of the Constitution within 10 days.
Article 186 deals with the advisory jurisdiction of the top court, which the government can invoke at any time by sending a reference to the apex court for seeking its opinion on the question of law regarding the legal status of the bills, especially in view of Articles 71 and 75 of the Constitution.
The petition has been filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution by invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights. The petition argued that the amendment bills were very sensitive since they would affect the accused persons.
The petition feared that if the matter was not resolved in time by the Supreme Court, future prosecution of the people under these bills would suffer badly and all efforts by the prosecution and investigation agencies would become fruitless.
Apprehensions cannot be ruled out that acquitted persons may then go for filing cases after getting acquitted of charges against those officials of law enforcement agencies and other related officers under Sections 219 and 220 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Section 219 says that whoever being a public servant corruptly or maliciously makes or pronounces in any stage of a judicial proceeding, any report, order, verdict, or decision, which he knows to be contrary to law, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.
Likewise, Section 220 says that commitment for trial or confinement by person having authority who knows that he is acting contrary to law.
Soon after the controversy, President Arif Alvi sent his secretary, Waqar Ahmed, packing back to the Establishment Division.
Published in Dawn, August 23th, 2023