Karachi civil courts were closed for a third day on Wednesday as lawyers continue to protest what they say is the top judge’s decision to increase the powers of the police to register FIRs.
They said they were reacting to a “change” made on March 11 by the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee that they interpret as restricting the powers of judicial officers who could previously order the police to register FIRs
Many lawyers earn money by taking up such cases, explained a lawyer. “What will they do if even this is taken from them?”
The lawyers sat on faded maroon sofas outside the Karachi Bar Association. The Sindh High Court had a slow day too as judges didn’t hear many cases.
The strike, which started on March 16, will continue on Thursday too. The courts are expected to be closed on March 23 (Saturday) on account of Pakistan Day.
“They may open on Monday,” a lawyer said. “We don’t know as yet,” she added.
The courts opened on March 19. “So many cases will go into pending if the judges don’t hear them,” another lawyer remarked.
What are they protesting?
Court officers were empowered to register police cases under sections 22(A) and (B) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. They would do this if someone came to them with the complaint that the police were not registering an FIR. And so, the law had allowed district and sessions judges to act as “Justices of the Peace” and order the registration of an FIR if the police refused to file one.
The secretary of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee clarified, however, that a piece of news about Section 22-A(6) has been misinterpreted by the media and some sections of the bar councils and associations. Dr Muhammad Raheem Awan said in a press statement that an office of SP (Complaints) has been created in every district as part of a “police redressal mechanism” to increase internal accountability. The new rule doesn’t take away the powers of the civil courts, the statement said.
“An aggrieved person can still lawfully approach a Justice of the Peace or a high court in respect of a complaint against the police after the SP doesn’t register the complaint,” the statement added.