ISLAMABAD: The prime minister’s legal team has prepared a package of legal reforms to overhaul the country’s criminal justice system besides checking massive civil litigation and improving the highly exploitative existing First Information Report (FIR) scheme.
Sources said the package included a change in the present law to ensure that an FIR was lodged in criminal cases only after complete investigation as was the case in the Federal Investigation Agency.
The present system of FIR is found to be highly exploitative where innocent people are harassed and even put behind bars on the basis of false FIRs.The legal package, it is said, seeks reforms in those areas which touch upon the lives of every individual, one way or the other.
“It merits special mention that one of the most onerous tasks is obtaining a succession certificate,” a source said, adding that this ordeal takes almost six months to a year.These cases, it is said, constitute almost 20% of the total case load of our courts. To address this issue, a draft law has been prepared which recommends giving Nadra the authority and power to issue succession certificates in non-contentious matters.
These reforms suggest elimination of procedure wherein succession certificates/inheritance registers via institutions including the Lahore Development Authority, Capital Development Authority, are acquired.
“Under the proposed law, these live succession certificates will be processed through Nadra in non-contentious cases.”About another reform, the sources said it was noticed that in civil cases there were inordinate delays stemming from the issuance and receipt of court summons, which require mainstreaming. This task is proposed to be privatised, which will eliminate corruption and slacknesson the part of government agencies.
About delay of years and decades in the disposal of civil cases, it is said that one of the main reason for this is that the appellate fora are manifold and revisional – Civil Court, Additional District Judges, the High Court, intra-court appeal (in some matters), and then the Supreme Court.
It is suggested that the court of first instance, i.e. the Civil Court shall be abolished. It is proposed that the civil judge will be replaced in favour of additional district judge, whose focus shall be strictly limited to civil cases. Banking, customs, and other such courts shall all be abolished in favour of specialist judges within the district court hierarchy.
District courts, it is said, will no longer enjoy revisionary powers. There will remain the full trial procedure via evidence and affidavits, but sans any burdensome procedure that exists only to increase litigation.
The reforms also seek the introduction of timelines with milestones as well as penalties/costs for non-compliance.The package also seeks creation of a Legal Service of Pakistan, which will serve as an incubating ground for incoming talent at all levels of the legal sphere: the training of prospective candidates for civil judge, or officers in various legal capacities including the office of the advocate general, attorney general, public defenders’ office, and the Office of Solicitor General will be introduced.
The package also recommends introducing costs of litigation, regardless of which litigant is ultimately victorious. Those costs – i.e. launching an unsuccessful, frivolous claim, shall remain, but whosoever is found to impede the course of justice will also pay costs; and whosoever infringes the prescribed time period shall also pay costs.
Regarding criminal matter only the sessions court will be empowered to decide such cases at the level of first instance. All existing courts will be upgraded.
“Lodging of First Investigation Report or making of a complaint will happen only subsequent to a complete investigation as in the case of the Federal Investigation Agency,” a source said.
He added that the reforms also seek abolition of the post of magistrate, as with the post of civil judge, in favour of additional sessions judges. Special magistrates may continue to oversee offences wherein there are penalties as opposed to jail sentences, i.e. traffic control and weights and measures.
For the legal and constitutional literacy of each citizen, as is their right, there will be translations of statute and all major laws – as well as legal issues of public interest – into Urdu for greater awareness.It is suggested to overhaul and update the legal curriculum besides introducing a new set of performance indicators for the legal community.
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The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
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