ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Interior is set to take up the issue of a missing bill of Senator Irfan Siddiqui, which focuses on separating the judiciary from the executive by clipping judicial powers being enjoyed by bureaucrats posted in Islamabad district administration.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Irfan Siddiqui raised the issue of his missing bill titled ‘Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2022’ with the committee, which then decided to take it up in its meeting on Thursday.

In a letter addressed to Senate Standing Committee on Interior Chairman Senator Mohsin Aziz, Mr Siddiqui said the bill, duly passed by both houses of parliament in May and June 2022, remained unaccounted for over the past 15 months.

He said the bill, which was aimed at curtailing judicial powers of the capital administration officers, had vanished after being sent to the Prime Minister’s Office by the Parliamentary Affairs Divisionon June 21, 2022 seeking President Arif Alvi’s approval.

Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2022 had been approved by parliament before it disappeared

The mover of the bill further said the President House had clarified that no such bill had been received. Senator Siddiqui requested the Senate body chairman to give him the opportunity to brief the committee regarding his lost bill.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Siddiqui said on his request, the committee chairman had decided to take up the issue on Thursday (today).

In June last year, after the Senate, the National Assembly also gave its consent to the bill that sought separation of the judiciary and the executive by clipping the judicial powers of assistant commissioners, the deputy commissioner and commissioner.

After the approval from both houses, the bill was supposed to be sent to President Dr Arif Alvi for ratification, but, according to the mover, it “disappeared”.

Hours after approval of the bill from the National Assembly, the mover had said: “Today, a key obligation of the Constitution of Pakistan has been fulfilled”, adding that now officials of the Islamabad administration will no longer have the power to remand or send anyone to jail.

However, he had said, these officials would continue to exercise administrative powers to prevent minor crimes but would not be able to exercise judicial powers.

The PML-N lawmaker further said for this purpose, judicial magistrates would be appointed and be answerable to the Islamabad High Court (IHC). He had said before partition, the 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 the colonial law”.

Mr Siddiqui was jailed for a couple of days in 2019 on the directive of an assistant commissioner (AC) in case related to house rent. He was accused by police for not informing them while renting out his house, however, Mr Siddiqui 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 had said assistant commissioners and the deputy commissioner 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.

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, September 28th, 2023

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