ISLAMABAD: The government has proposed amendments in four key provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) of 1860 – a move which could resolve the longstanding issue of murderers pardoned by the heir of the victim under the Qisas (retribution) and Diyat (blood money) law.
Taking note of public outrage over two recent pardons by the heirs of Shahzaib Khan and Zain Rauf, the government has decided to make some amendments in the relevant laws.
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“It [Qisas and Diyat law] is a key part of our upcoming legal reforms agenda,” Ashtar Ausaf Ali, the special assistant to the prime minister on legal affairs, told The Express Tribune on Tuesday. “Laws are amended to act as stepping stones, not as stumbling blocks.”
To serve justice to the public, the government is also going to establish public defenders’ offices in all provinces, he added.
If the proposed legislation – likely to be tabled before parliament soon – is passed, then murderers would beg pardon after getting themselves convicted under Section 302(a) of the PPC, reads the draft of the proposed law.
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Sections 309 and 310 are being amended, where legal heirs of the victim have the right to make a compromise with the offenders.
Under the proposed amendment, legal heirs can forgive the murderer without getting any monetary compensation in the form of Diyat, “after conviction of the offender under Section 302(a) of the PPC”.
Under the important inclusion in Section 311, “the court shall, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, punish an offender against whom the right of Qisas has been waived or compounded with imprisonment, which may extend to 14 years but shall not be less than seven years as Tazir.”
The purpose of this addition is to empower the judge to include the past conduct of the offenders to determine if they are considered a danger to society.
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“It’s a positive move,” said Council of Islamic Ideology member Allama Tahir Ashrafi. “Laws should be amended sensing changing trends in society. If amendments happen in good faith, by keeping Islamic values in mind, then there is no harm to review Islamic laws.”
Another important amendment in Section 338-E, which deals with waiver or compounding of offences, is the addition of definition of such offences: “Provided if the principle of ‘Fasad fil Arz’ is attracted, the court shall, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, punish the offender against whom the offence has been waived or compound under Tazir, according to the nature of the offence. In case of international murder, the sentence shall be imprisonment, which may extend up to 25 years but shall not be less than 10 years.”
More legal reforms
The law ministry has also cleared the following proposed laws: ‘Criminal Law (Prohibition of Jirga/Panchayat Amendment) Bill 2015’, ‘Bill to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children 2013’, ‘Reproductive Health Care and Rights Bill 2014’, ‘Domestic Violence (Prevention and Projection) Bill 2014’ and ‘Christian Marriages (Amendment) Bill 2014’.
The purpose of these bills, said Ashtar, is “to provide easy justice to the masses. Justice should not just be carried out but it should be seen in accordance with the law”. The government, under the new reforms, is also looking into criminal matters, civil matters and legal education.
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Sessions courts will be empowered to decide criminal cases at the level of first instance. The post of magistrate, as with the post of civil judge, shall be abolished in favour of additional session judges, and better pay scales and perks shall serve as incentives. Regarding civil matters, district courts will no longer enjoy revisionary powers. The full trial procedure via evidence and affidavits will remain, but sans any burdensome procedures that exist only to increase litigation.
As for legal education, the curriculum shall be overhauled and updated, and a new set of performance indicators with higher bars will be introduced for induction into the legal community.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2015.
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