The federal government is bringing in a host of laws and amendments, Law Minister Farogh Naseem announced on Saturday. One of the major changes is that anyone charged with or being investigated in a case of over Rs500 million will only be able to avail C-Class facilities.
This will be across the board, said the minister. Right now, ‘Better Class’ facilities are available to a number of people, including parliamentarians and former public office holders. ‘Better Class’ facilities include things like air-conditioners and televisions.
Here are some of the other major announcements he made:
It can take up to 10 years to obtain succession certificates or letters of administration in simple cases, said the minister, adding that the government hopes to speed up the process by liaising with NADRA. Through the introduction of biometrics and technology, people will be able to manage these cases from any Pakistani mission, embassy or high commission in the world. Naseem said it will take just 15 days to obtain succession certificates.
One of the major problems overseas Pakistanis had was that their properties were usurped while they were out of the country, explained the minister. Now, the government is going to bring in a law to safeguard the immovable (houses and land) properties of overseas Pakistanis.
The government is adding rules to the 2017 Benami Transactions Law which will bring in the concept of whistleblowers. A whistleblower is anyone who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct. They will be bringing in an amendment to add the concept.
In civil procedure courts, it can take between 30 and 40 years for cases to be resolved, said Naseem. He said the government is hoping to speed up the process and ensure that it takes six months to a year in the first stage. This was a barrier to investment, he said, as foreign investors said court cases in Pakistan simply take far too long.
Over 50% of our population are women, said Naseem. The other day, I read about a case where a woman was imprisoned for 20 years over a property issue and that’s not uncommon, he said. The minister discussed the cruelties meted out to women by their families when it comes to property or assets. To help them, the government is empowering the women ombudspersons. They will have enforcement powers, police powers and suo motu powers, he explained, adding that they can act on complaints and whatever they deem fit. They will also have powers to conduct raids. Women across Pakistan should know that there is a law to help them, said the minister, adding that anyone can file a complaint on their behalf as well. In simple cases, the ombudsperson can handle the possession, ownership and transfer, he said, adding that they can file civil court cases which will be registered as civil suits.
Another matter, which Naseem described as “close to his heart”, was that of what lawyers wear to court. Right now there’s a strict black tie-black suit requirement and a 1980 statute gives the federal government the authority to examine the court dress requirements, he said. But the government has decided to repeal this law and give the authority to the court. That means you can decide if you want everyone to wear blue coats, grey ties or brown pants, he said.
A parallel support system is also going to be set up to record evidence using technology. This will save court time and be headed by a panel comprising senior lawyers and retired judges. It will follow all the rules regarding evidence recording and will use technology so that fears that it was not recorded properly can be allayed, he said. He said the system is based on the chief justice’s video link hearing system.
The government is also bringing in a legal aid and justice authority ordinance/act soon which will help people in criminal cases who need legal aid, lawyers or to pay small bail amounts and penalties. Different stakeholders will be consulted for this, he said. The prime minister wants to add more funds to this authority, explained the minister. It’s initial focus will be on cases involving women, children, gender and sexual assault, he said.
He said Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be replicating these laws where applicable and he hopes Balochistan and Sindh do as well if they think it is a good idea.