The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has issued a notice to the federal government asking whether legislating criminal law falls under the latter’s jurisdiction. The notice has been issued through the Attorney General’s office.
The court also summoned the federal and provincial law secretaries to appear before the hearing on September 4 and assist the court on the subject.
The bench, headed by PHC Chief Justice (CJ) Dost Muhammad Khan, was hearing a petition filed by Muhammad Nawaz, whose daughters had been claimed for marriage under custom of Ghag. Brothers, Jehangir and Abdul Razzaq of Peshawar district’s Sherkera area, claimed their cousins Shaista, 13, and Zeenat, 11, under the custom.
The court, during last hearing of the case on June 5, had directed the federal and provincial government to legislate the law to make such detestable acts punishable. However, the proposed law, produced before the court by law department consultant Qasim Jan, instead recommended stern action against the aggrieved party (the girls’ parents), as opposed to the accused.
CJ Khan termed the law drafted by the officials, ‘incompetent and inappropriate.’
“When it comes to (their) individual interests... they swiftly approved the contempt of court bill... but when it comes to public interest, why are they always late?” CJ Khan remarked.
Khan told Deputy Attorney General Iqbal Mohmand that the government had always complained that the judiciary interfered in government affairs.
“If they (government) had legislated the law (to curb such actions) earlier, the judiciary would have never interfered,” the CJ declared. He questioned as to why the mandate to constitute criminal law had not been retained by the federal government.
Khan said that a lot of confusion was created by inconsistent clauses in Article 142 of the constitution, where the domain of the parliament to enact criminal law was not clearly mentioned nor the extent of its role defined with regards to categories of the law.
“To discuss this, we are issuing a notice to the federation through the Attorney General of Pakistan to submit a written reply along with a legal opinion,” CJ Khan ordered.
The court also directed the federal and provincial governments to realise the gravity of the act and support stringent laws to punish Wanni, Swara and Ghag.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.