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Senate passes 'fair trial bill'

Published Feb 01, 2013 01:59pm

A view of the Senate in session.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The upper house of Parliament on Friday unanimously passed the “Fair Trial Act 2012”, which authorises the state to intercept private communications in order to track suspected terrorists.

The bill, presented by Law Minister Farooq H Naek, has already been passed by the National Assembly in December last year.

The legislation allows security agencies to collect evidence “by means of modern techniques and devices” like wire-tapping and intercepting emails and SMS text messages that will be accepted in a court in cases registered under five security-related laws.

The bill had become controversial amid fears voiced by critics and human rights groups for perceived threat to people’s privacy and misuse against political opponents.

Minister for Law Farooq H Naek told the Senate today that by enactment of the law, all law enforcement and intelligence agencies would be governed by a uniform legal system for collection of evidence which will be admissible even if collected prior to the registration of an FIR.

“The law must encourage investigation, intelligence agencies to only collect genuine evidence in accordance with law and thus curb the temptation of planting false and fabricated evidence against individuals in violation of their human rights due process and civil liberties” he said.

He said the investigative agencies lack the comprehensive legal powers to collect evidence through surveillance or interception although such legal cover is available to intelligence agencies in several other jurisdictions to preempt and prevent acts of crime or terror.

The bill was passed in the lower house after a heated debate in the NA, followed by the government’s acceptance of 32 amendments to the legislation proposed by the main opposition party.

The bill now needs to be passed by the President to be brought into law.