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‘C’ class for jailed politicians: Ordinance promulgated amid fanfare dies unceremonious death


January 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: An ordinance that was promulgated with a lot of fanfare to teach a lesson to the top opposition leaders, prosecuted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and jailed, has been retracted as a result of an agreement with the opposition.

The instant piece of legislation, which amended the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 thus died an unceremonious death. It provided for shifting of such accused persons in “C” class of the prisons.

The ordinance said notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law or any instructions for the time being in force, any person arrested under the provisions of the NAO for any offence involving any amount above fifty million rupees shall be entitled to 'C' class or equivalent only in the prison irrespective of the stage of inquiry, investigation or trial.

Its statement of objects and reasons said that the NAO is focused at eradicating corruption and corrupt practices and to hold accountable persons accused of corruption and corrupt practices. The NAO provided for special handling of the persons being dealt with under it. Therefore, in order to provide for appropriate treatment on arrest, the present amendment is proposed in NAO to remove any concession during the period of arrest of such persons, the statement said.

The ordinance was promulgated when political talk was focused on provision of better jail class to deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ex-President Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and some other top opposition politicians.

When the government and opposition representatives sit together under one roof to mull over amendments in the NAO next week, the “C” class issue may also come up for consideration.

On Nov 7, 2019, the government introduced and passed in minutes at least nine ordinances amid intense opposition protest in the National Assembly. However, it was later agreed between the two sides that these ordinances would be taken back and would have to go through the standard parliamentary procedures like their referral to the relevant standing committees for consideration and approval. As part of this accord, the government has now taken back six ordinances while some including Zainab alert bill have been unanimously passed.

Another rescinded ordinance relates to the change of dress code of the superior court judges. Through it, the government decided to abolish the prevailing compulsory dress of judges of the Supreme Court and high courts while holding judicial proceedings or attending State or ceremonial functions.

The ordinance had repealed a 1980 presidential order that provided for the dress and mode of address in the superior courts.

Its statement of objects and reasons said that Articles 191 and 202 of the Constitution empower Supreme Court and high courts to make rules regulating their own practice and procedure. Therefore, the matter pertaining to dress and mode of address may be regulated by them.

Articles 191 and 202 say that the Supreme Court and high courts may make rules regulating their practice and procedure. The high courts may control their respective subordinate judiciary.

In a meeting attended by the chief justices of the superior courts in June 1979, certain decisions were taken having regard to the views of the Pakistan Bar Council relating to dress and mode of address in these judicial forums.

The 1980 presidential order said that a superior court judge will wear while he is attending sittings of the court a black suit with a white shirt, a black tie and a black gown; and while he is attending State or ceremonial functions, a black suit with a white shirt and a black tie.

Similarly, a lady judge will wear while she is attending the sittings of the court white dress with winged color white shirt, black coat and black gown, and while she is attending the State or ceremonial functions white dress with winged color white shirt and black coat.

The order said that the use of the expressions “My Lord” and “Your Lordship” and the like, in relation to a judge will be discontinued and he will only be addressed as “Sir” or “Janab-e-Wala” or “Janab-e-Aali” or referred to in judgments, correspondence or other instruments as “Mr. Justice” so and so or the like.

It also said superior court means the Supreme Court of Pakistan or a High Court or the Federal Shariat Court and “judge” includes chief justice or, in the case of the Federal Shariat Court, its chairman or its members.