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Monday, October 29, 2007
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Cabinet Okays Mobile Court Ordinance

Executive magistrates cannot be sued

Executive magistrates to be empowered with the right to convene impromptu mobile courts and to mete out instant punishments for certain offences, are also to be exempt from being prosecuted for any inadvertent harm done to the accused by their decisions while acting in good faith.

The council of advisers yesterday approved a new law termed, Mobile Court Ordinance 2007, barring people from suing the executive magistrates and giving the magistrates some judicial powers for meting out impromptu justice.

After approving the draft of the ordinance in principle on Saturday, the cabinet yesterday approved additions to some sections, empowering the executive magistrates to confiscate illegal goods and to take decisions regarding confiscated perishable goods.

A change was brought to the final draft of the law fixing the district and sessions judge's court, instead of the chief judicial magistrate's court, as the court of appeal against any order of the executive magistrates, according to sources.

Chief Adviser (CA) Fakhruddin Ahmed presided over the meeting in his office, where apart from the advisers, the cabinet secretary, the secretary to the CA's office, and other secretaries concerned were present.

The sources said the ordinance might be promulgated today following an approval from the president.

The ordinance gives executive magistrates a limited amount of power to take into cognisance any crime as soon as it commences, to convene on-the-spot impromptu trials, and to mete out instant punishments to maintain law and order and to run anti-crime drives effectively. They may carry out such activities anywhere in the country.

While maintaining law and order and carrying out anti-crime activities, any executive magistrate or nominated public servant may take into cognisance any crime occurring in front of them. They may also take into cognisance any suspicion that a crime is about to take place, and may take actions on the basis of that cognisance.

The executive magistrates may later frame charges under section 242 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and record the statements of the accused after informing him or her of the charges, according to the ordinance.

The punishments however may be meted out only if the accused confess, and those must stay within the bounds of financial penalties only.

But, if a confessed violator of law does not want to pay the penalty he or she may be sent to a maximum of three months of imprisonment.

And if the accused intends to dispute the allegations, he or she will be sent to the judicial magistrate for investigation and trial.

The accused may also file an appeal with the district and sessions judge.

Talking to reporters at the Bangladesh Secretariat before the approval of the ordinance, Law Adviser Mainul Hosein yesterday said the government is not bringing any change to the CrPC while introducing the new law.

"It's going to be an independent, stand alone law," he said.

"If anyone is fined wrongly by a mobile court, there will be provisions for appeal against it," the law adviser told reporters after a meeting at the housing and public works ministry.

"The government has a responsibility to separate the judiciary from the executive, and it also has the responsibility to keep the administrative service efficient and active for good governance," Mainul said.

The law is to ensure that the administrative service cadres are properly equipped to carry out the necessary preventive measures like imposing section 144, convening mobile courts, and running anti-adulteration drives, he said.

"These powers have been there for administrative cadres in some other laws including in the customs laws. Those are now just being incorporated in the new law."

The decision to empower the executive magistrates with some judicial powers came following an outburst by the admin cadres at a seminar which was then followed by a negotiation between the government and the leaders of Bangladesh Administrative Service Association.

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