Officials beware, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government is going to set up Ehtesab courts on district levels to weed out those guilty of corruption.
The Ehtesab or accountability court can disqualify anyone convicted under the Ehtesab Commission Act of 2013 from contesting in elections or for public office. The individual would also not be eligible to apply for a loan for five years after the conviction.
The accountability act was approved by the provincial assembly and the government is expecting to make the commission functional by the first week of March.
Once that is out of the way, the court will be set up according to the area’s needs and number of cases reported.
The court’s key feature is that it will solve cases filed within three months from the date of reference. The accused will have seven days to respond to the charges.
According to the chief minister’s spokesperson, Sheraz Paracha, this process for justice will be the first of its kind in the province. He said that the main purpose behind it was good governance, transparency and public efficiency. The spokesperson added that the commission would be centralised for the province.
Responding to a question about the number of accountability courts they planned to have, Paracha said that they would have courts wherever needed and the exact number would be known after the commission becomes functional.
One, two, three and you’re out
Article 41 of the Act says that within 30 days of its approval, the government will take necessary steps to establish Ehtesab courts as need be, while Peshawar High Court (PHC) will designate a judge.
“Where the number of references filed or cases pending before a court exceeds 50, the government shall immediately establish a new court and provide it with all related facilities to ensure dispensation of justice within prescribed time schedules,” read Section 4 of Article 41.
According to Article 42 , which deals with the procedure of trials, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, each matter brought before the court under this Act shall be disposed of no later than three months from the date of reference being filed.
It further read that within seven days of the accused filing a response, the reference shall be fixed for hearing so the court can acquit the accused or frame charges. Under no circumstance, however, will the court grant adjournment of more than seven days.
In Article 44 of the Act, any person convicted or the prosecutor general, if so directed by the director general, aggrieved by the final judgment of and order of the court under this Act may, within 20 days of the final judgment and order of the court prefer an appeal to the PHC.
The article which deals with the disqualification to contest election or hold public office is Article 34. Section 1 of the article reads, “Where an accused is convicted of an offence under Section 25, he shall forthwith cease to hold public office, if any, held by him and shall be deemed to have committed the offence of moral turpitude for purpose of Article 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan.”
In Section 2, it reads that any person convicted of an offence under Section 23 should not be allowed to apply for or be granted any financial facilities in the form of loan or advances or other financial accommodation by a bank or financial institution owned or controlled by the government for a period of five years from the date of his conviction for such offences.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2014.