Islamabad, November 03, 2012 (PPI-OT): Today a special meeting of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee (NJPMC) was held at Supreme Court Branch Registry, Lahore under the Chairmanship of Hon’ble Mr. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan/ Chairman, NJPMC to consider the request of Election Commission of Pakistan regarding appointment of Judicial Officers as District Returning Officer and Returning Officers in the forthcoming general elections.
The meeting was attended by Mr. Justice Agha Rafiq Ahmed Khan, Chief Justice Federal Shariat Court, Mr. Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Chief Justice High Court of Balochistan, Mr. Justice Mushir Alam, Chief Justice High Court of Sindh, Mr. Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Chief Justice, Lahore High Court, Mr. Justice Miftah-ud-Din Khan, Senior Puisne Judge, Peshawar High Court and Mr. Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman, Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court.
In his introductory remarks the Hon’ble Chief Justice of Pakistan/Chairman, NJPMC stated that a free and fair elections ensures stability and escorts the nation towards prosperity; however, due to vested interest of different groups and corrupt practices the reputation of judiciary due to its in the performance of election duties become at stake; therefore, at the time of formulating National Judicial Policy it was considered appropriate to keep aloof the judiciary from the elections process to focus its all energies on clearing of backlog and deciding pending cases.
The Hon’ble Chief Justice stated that the judiciary values the sentiments and confidence shown by the political parties, civil society and media in the judiciary an independent and impartial institution and to play its role in the election process to enhance its credibility as communicated in the correspondence received from the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The Committee considered the request of Election Commission in national interest and resolved that since the judiciary has taken great strides to strengthen its independence; therefore, before taking any decision regarding involvement of district judiciary in the election process, the Election Commission of Pakistan may be asked to explain as to how under existing section 7(5) of Representation of People’s Act 1976, a Judicial Officer being Returning Officer can conduct election independently and effectively. The role of District Returning Officer, Returning Officer etc in the selection of Presiding Officers and making appropriate changes in the polling stations to ensure free and fair election needs also to be explained.
The Election Commission may also provide the details of facilities financial and administrative to be made available to the District Returning Officer, Returning Officer etc during the election process. Besides, providing details of arrangement made for logistic to the Returning Officers and other staff engaged in the election process, the Election Commission may also explain measures taken for deweaponization of constituencies and security arrangements to hold the election in free and fair atmosphere.
During discussion, the Committee observed that the Supreme Court of Pakistan in its judgment dated 08-06-2012 in case titled Workers Party Pakistan vs. Federation of Pakistan issued declaration and directions to the Election Commission of Pakistan to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law and that corrupt practices guarded against. Therefore, before taking any decision on the request, the Election Commission should brief about the implementation status of the judgment and directions issued therein.
The Committee also observed that the Supreme Court in case titled Watan Party vs. Federation of Pakistan had observed that delimitation of different constituency have also to be taken with the same object and purpose particularly to make Karachi which is the hub of economic and commercial activities and also the face of Pakistan a peaceful city in the near future and issued directions to the Election Commission of Pakistan to initiate process on its own in this behalf. The Committee resolved that the Election Commission of Pakistan may be asked to take measures in this regard.
The Committee also inquired from the Election Commission about the measures taken for capacity building and training of the Returning Officer, District Returning Officer, Presiding Officer, Polling Staff etc.
The Committee also asked the Election Commission to provide details of measures taken to check the possible pre, during and post rigging in the forthcoming election. The Committee asked the Secretary, NJPMC to write a letter to the Chief Election Commission about the observations of Committee to the Election Commission for response. Reply so received will again be examined in the meeting of NJPMC to be convened especially for the purpose.
The Committee also considered the performance of district judiciary in the backdrop of National Judicial Policy and observed that maximum number of old cases have been decided. After deliberations, the Committee extended the target date for disposal of remaining old cases up to 31st December 2012. The Hon’ble Chairman asked the Chief Justices of the High Courts to monitor the performance of district judiciary for realizing the targets.
The Registrars, Supreme Court of Pakistan submitted report on the meeting of Sub-Committee responsible for implementation of NJPMC’s decisions. The Committee discussed in detail the issues related to non-submission of challans and other issues ancillary to administration of criminal justice system. It is observed that non completion of investigations and non submission of challans is a major cause of delay in disposal of criminal cases.
The Committee observed that after pursuing the issue continuously the situation has been improved considerably. The Committee considered the statistics related to capacity of the prisons and existing strength of prisoners in Jails and also considered the efforts of provincial Governments to address the issue of overcrowding in Jails.
The Committee observed that prior to implementation of Policy the population in jails was more than three times to the sanctioned capacity but now after implementation of Policy and expeditious disposal of cases the problem of overcrowding has been addressed to great extent in the province of KPK, Balochistan and Sindh; whereas, visible improvement has been noticed in the province of Punjab.
The Committee also reviewed the data of offenders released on probation. It was informed that previously the law was not applied by the Courts; however, after implementation of Policy good numbers of offenders have been released on probation by invoking the provisions of Probation of Offenders Ordinance, 1960.
For more information, contact:
Shahid Hussain Kamboyo
Public Relations Officer
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 920 4184
Fax: +9251 920 1001