The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday directed the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa advocate general to explain the statutory backing for dispute resolution councils (DRC) established in some districts of the province.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Muhammad Daud Khan directed the advocate general to provide an explanation on Wednesday (today).
The direction was issued during the hearing of a petition filed by Qaiser Khan, a resident of Hayatabad, challenging a DRC’s proceedings against him in April. The petitioner has made secretary DRC, IGP, chief capital city police officer and SHO Hayatabad, among others, as respondents.
During the hearing, the chief justice said the high court registrar issued notices to officials concerned to explain whether DRCs offer a parallel system of administering justice. However, a reply has yet to be received.
DRCs were established at police stations to provide a forum to resolve disputes in an amicable manner. The councils have gained considerable backing from local police and function in a broadly similar way to traditional jirgas. There are currently three DRCs in the provincial capital, four in Nowshera, three in Charsadda and many more in other districts.
Root of the matter
Imtiaz Ali, counsel for the petitioner, informed the court that his client was asked in February to appear before a DRC at West Cantt police station over complaints filed against him. The petitioner appeared before the council on April 21.
Khan was informed that Irshadul Haq had filed a complaint against him to seek the recovery of Rs2.76 million which the former owed him during a joint construction venture.
“Despite repeated requests, the petitioner was not provided a copy of the complaint,” stated the petition. “He was instead told to settle the matter with the complainant to avoid any further inconvenience.”
According to the petition, Khan was asked to voluntarily pay back the money otherwise he would be forced to do so. Moreover, officials of Hayatabad police repeatedly came to his house and asked him to appear before the DRC secretary.
The petitioner said the proceedings against him are illegal.
Bone of contention
“DRCs were neither meant to provide a substitute for courts of law nor impose its will on people,” read the petition. “The council was envisioned as a body comprising civil society members to resolve disputes involving non-cognisable offences. However, in this case, the council has encroached upon the jurisdiction of a civil court.”
Khan requested the court to declare the proceedings initiated against him to have no legal effect. Furthermore, he asked the bench to restrain official respondents from harassing him or taking any action against him.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2015.
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