Supreme Court of Pakistan has decided to form a larger bench to hear a petition against the merger of the Fata into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A three members apex court bench was hearing a petition filed by the Malik Anwarullah Khan pleading to declare the 25th constitutional amendment, under which the erstwhile Fata was merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as null and void.
The bench comprises Chief Justice Omar Atta Bandial, Justice Ayesha Malik and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar. Attoreny General of Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan and Advoate General KP Shumail Ahmed Butt also appeared before the bench.
The petitioner has asked the court to declare the merger as null and void as the step has caused resentment among the general public of the region. It said that founder of the nation had also promised to the Fata people that their constitutional status will not be changed without their consultation. However, it said that the federal government neither consulted them before making this decision nor any jirga or referendum was held as provided in the constitution.
On the other federal and provincial government have prayed the court the reject the petition as such appeals could not be submitted under the article 184 (3) of the constitution dealing with apex court jurisdiction.
During the course of proceedings, the bench stated that the petitioners had raised the question of not changing the status of federal units under the Constitution.
Following the argument, chief justice decided to form a larger bench to hear the petition against the merger.
Magisterial powers for merged areas DCs
On the other hand, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet has increased the powers of the deputy commissioners of the merged districts by giving them magisterial powers
Under the Justice of Peace authorization, the DC will have authority to maintain law and order and register cases.
On the other hand, legal experts have termed the move by the provincial government as unconstitutional and discriminatory against the people of the merged districts. The legal experts said that they will challenge this move in the Peshawar High Court.
Following the decision, provincial home department will issue a notification entrusting the DCs with the justice of peace powers in light of cabinet decision.
The cabinet has approved the proposal in its meeting earlier on March 1.
Special Assistant for chief minister on information Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif said that the cabinet has approved to give powers of Justice of Peace to the DC of the merged districts which will help in ensuring law and order in the region.
Under Section 22A(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a justice of the peace for any local area shall, for the purpose of making an arrest, have within such area all the powers of a police-officer referred to in Section 54 and of an officer in charge of police station referred to in Section 55.
Sub-section 2 of the CrPC says that a justice of the peace making an arrest in exercise of any powers under sub-section (1) shall, forthwith, take or cause to be taken the person arrested before the officer in charge of the nearest police station and furnish such officer with a report as to the circumstance of the arrest and such officer shall thereupon re-arrest the person.
Lawyers oppose magisterial powers to DCs
On the other hand, legal experts have criticized the move.
Farhadullah Afridi advocate told TNN that appointment of DCs as Justice of Peace or giving judicial power to them was a violation of Articles 175, 4 and 25 of the Constitution.
He said that article 175 of the Constitution clearly states that administrative officers cannot exercise judicial powers
Mr Afridi said that giving the powers of Sections 22-A and 22-B of the CrPC to DCs instead of judicial officers was also against Articles 4 and 25 of the Constitution as according to both the provisions of the Constitution all citizens of Pakistan are equal.
He said that the government was introducing one law for the merged districts and another for the rest of the province, which is tantamount to discrimination.
KP defends magisterial powers to merged districts DCs
On the other hand, in statement issued here KP home department said that the government has appointed the DCs of merged districts as Justices of Peace for the areas of their jurisdiction under Section 22 of CrPC.
It said that the decision was taken in view of the problems faced by public in adapting to the recently introduced police system, especially with regards to registration of FIR, attestation of documents and personal identification for legal purposes.
“The Deputy Commissioners empowered as such, will also assist the police and courts in matters of arrests in cognizable offences. The DCs will now be legally responsible for prevention of any breach of peace or disruption of public tranquility in the merged districts.” It said.
The statement added the district administration and police in merged districts have been directed to organize awareness sessions with the public and also hold Darbars of the Police Force for its awareness and compliance.