Unanimous approval: Inquiry commission bill sails through Senate

The bill provides for constitution of powerful commissions


APP March 09, 2017
The disgruntled legislators have submitted application to Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani for allocating the the benches PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Bill 2016 that provides for constitution of properly empowered commissions for holding inquiries into important national matters.

Presenting the bill, Law Minister Zahid Hamid said the bill had become imperative in view of an observation of the Supreme Court in connection with Panama Papers scandal.

“The Supreme Court had mentioned that law regarding formation of a commission to investigate the matters like Panama Papers is toothless. In view of the SC’s observation a new bill has been moved to empower in future such commissions that may investigate the matters of national importance,” he said.

According to the bill, any commission constituted under this law shall have the powers of summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath.

It will also have power to require discovery and production of any documents; to receive evidence on affidavit; to issue commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents; and to requisition any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.

The commission shall also have powers to require any person or authority to furnish information or documents on points that in its opinion may be useful or relevant.

The bill provides that the chairman or any officer of grade-18 authorised by the chairman may enter any building or place where the commission has reasons to believe that any books of accounts or other documents relating to the subject matter of the inquiry may be found.

“It may seize any such books of accounts or documents or take extracts or copies therefrom, subject to the provisions of section 102 and 103 of the CrPC, in so far as they may be applicable,” the bill says.

The commission shall also have powers of a high court to punish any persons who abuses, interferes or obstructs the process of the commission in any way or disobeys the order of the commission.

It could also punish those who scandalise the commission or does anything which tends to bring the commission or a member of the commission into hatred, ridicule or contempt or does anything that tends to prejudice the determination of a matter pending before the commission.

The bill says the federal government may confer all powers of a criminal court under CrPC to the commission. These powers include authority to constitute special teams for the purpose of assisting the commission in conducting an inquiry.

These powers may also include authority to constitute an international team and seek international cooperation from foreign counties and agencies to get information, documents, evidence and record or issue letters and interrogatories in accordance with applicable international instruments.

The commission may also be conferred powers to write a letter to competent judicial authority in another country to seek assistance in examination and recording evidence of a witness residing within the jurisdiction of such authority.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2017.

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