Published: Friday, July 26, 2013

DCs for Magistracy Clout

Shafique flip-flops on crucial issue

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed yesterday made contradictory statements regarding deputy commissioners and executive magistrates having judicial powers.
Speaking to the press after a meeting with the DCs, Shafique said as per the Supreme Court directives in the judiciary separation case of 2007, executive magistrates could not have judicial powers while the judicial magistrates could not be given executive or administrative powers.
Shafique said the government had given some power to executive magistrates by amending the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and further changes to the law would go against the Supreme Court directives regarding the separation of the judiciary from the executive.
“Thus, no law contradicting the Supreme Court could be enacted,” he said.
He said executive magistrates enjoyed some powers through the mobile courts. They could now punish people who commit offences in front of mobile courts.
He, however, then said the government might “review” the mobile court act to empower executive magistrates to punish people for crimes, even if they plead “not guilty” before a mobile court.
This, in other words, would give judicial power to executive magistrates but the mobile court act does not allow them to punish anyone who pleads “not guilty”.
Since the separation of the judiciary from the executive in 2007, the DCs, who hold executive positions, had been demanding their power to hold summary trials be restored. They reiterated their demand during the meeting with the law minister on the final day of a three-day conference at Bangladesh Secretariat yesterday.
Amending the CrPC in April, 2009, the Awami League-led government had “given some judicial power to executive magistrates”.
The High Court in November that year issued a rule on the government asking it to explain within three weeks as to why giving such powers to the executive magistrates should not be declared illegal.
But 45 months have passed since and the government is yet to respond to the rule.
Manzill Murshid, who filed the petition that resulted in the High Court ruling on the government, told The Daily Star that trials held by executive magistrates could not be proper and fair, as they did not have the experience and knowledge like judicial magistrates.