Govt to get rights to put on judicial horns | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 19, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 19, 2009

Govt to get rights to put on judicial horns

JS body recommends sweeping authority in new bill for continuation of separation of judiciary

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The parliamentary standing committee on law ministry yesterday finalised recommendations for amending the bill on separation of judiciary allowing the government to vest "sweeping authority" in executive magistrates to take cognisance of offences in any situation.
The committee is likely to place its report before the House for passage of the Code of Criminal Procedure (amendment) bill to enact a law for continuation of separation of the judiciary, sources said.
Parliament Secretariat officials were working to complete preparations to ensure the report be tabled in parliament today. Earlier, the committee finalised the recommendations at a meeting yesterday.
On March 12, the committee said it would recommend that the House empower executive magistrates to take cognisance of offences "under some special circumstances to maintain law and order".
But executive magistrates will now enjoy sweeping authority to take cognisance of offences even in normal situation once the bill on separation of judiciary is amended in line with the committee's recommendation, legal experts added.
In its report, the committee will suggest inclusion of a new provision in the bill to this effect.
As per the new provision the government may empower executive magistrates, who are also admin cadres, to take cognisance of offences and send those to the judicial magistrates or competent courts for trial, sources said. In that case, the government will have to specify the reasons and period of the empowerment of the executive magistrates, the sources added, referring to the new provision.
As per the new provision, executive magistrates might be empowered to take cognisance of offences upon receiving a complaint of facts in writing made by any police officer and upon information received from any person other than a police officer, or upon his own knowledge or suspicion, that such offence has been committed.
Legal experts said judicial magistrates also maintain the same procedure in taking cognisance of offences.
Asked about the significance of the recommendation, eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik told The Daily Star last night, "Such authority is liable to be easily abused and hence I apprehend about the possible future misuse of this power."
Besides, it is clearly against the spirit of the Supreme Court's verdict on separation of the judiciary, he added.
The committee made the recommendation following the demands of the Administrative Service Association. In support of the demands, the association earlier said it could not run the administration effectively if executive magistrates cannot take cognisance of offences.
The admin cadres appointed as magistrates before separation of the judiciary exercised the authority and held trial. They lost the authority following separation of the judiciary from the executive and they were officially termed as executive magistrates.
The Judicial Service Association strongly opposed the admin cadres' proposals, saying the proposals are tantamount to contempt of the Supreme Court's verdict on separation of the judiciary.
The ordinances promulgated by the caretaker government separating the judiciary were not ratified in parliament and the government later placed a new bill in parliament for continuation of the separation.
The House sent the bill to the parliamentary body for scrutiny. Since then leaders of admin service have been lobbying hard to reclaim the power to take cognisance of offences.

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