LAHORE – As the government is considering restoring the office of deputy commissioner through an act of the Assembly, it is also contemplating to confer the powers of justices of the peace (JoP) to them to lessen burden on the judiciary.

The government intends to amend the relevant laws to assign this role to the DC’s who would be able to issue directions to police on complaints regarding non-registration of a criminal cases, transfer of investigation from one police officer to another and on neglect, failure or excess committed by a police authority in relation to its functions and duties.

A committee was established by the Punjab government to look into the matter.

At present, these powers are being exercised by District & Session judges. However, after amendment the powers would be transferred completely to the DCs. The issue is still open to debate.

It is relevant to note here that the institution of the justice of peace was first introduced in the Indian Sub-continent in Section 22 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1989. 

Official sources said the load of cases on judiciary has grown owing to escalating litigation and pendency were on the rise as the district and sessions judges were exercising their powers as JoP. A lot of court time is consumed on hearing petty issues relating to police offenses like non-registration of FIRs or wrong investigations etc.

An officer of Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) said the commission desired the provinces may appoint JoP so that burden on judicial officers could be reduced. The superior courts have observed that a justice of peace merely possesses an administrative role so how does Section 22-A confer executive powers on the judiciary. Earlier, through Code of Criminal Procedure (Third Amendment) Ordinance 2002, the Sessions judges and on their nomination the Additional Sessions judges are justices of the peace. The JoP many a time exercised their powers and ordered the police officers register FIRs etc.

Before the amendment in the Code in 2002, the powers were vested with the High Courts only.

Responding to a query why the DCs needed JoP status as well, a senior officer said “The police could not exercise their powers to maintain law and order, satisfy the public at large regarding their escalating complaints even against the law enforcing agency, it was suggested by many law experts that there should be a check on police officers regarding their use of powers like firing etc”. He said that the incidents, like Model Town Tragedy and Sialkot fiasco claimed many precious lives including judges, were some of the instances when police used their powers blindly. The magistrates on the other hand never allowed the police to fire vehemently other than self defense, he held. There is good number of court observations against the vigorous role of the police force after Police Order 2002 was promulgated in the province. He said that the issue of faulty investigations by police officials also strengthened the idea of justice of peace.

He said that there should be clear demarcation between the powers of the executive and jurisdiction of the judiciary but burden of the civil as well as police could not be shifted to judiciary.  

Naseer Ahmad Kamboh, an advocate said that on the orders of the JoP the FIR of the Model Town Tragedy was lodged as the complainant wanted but the police had registered the cases against those who were reportedly murdered in exchange of firing with police.

Talking about powers of the JoP, Kamboh said a justice of the peace for any local area shall, for the purpose of making an arrest, has all the powers of a Police Officer referred to in section 54 and section 55. A Justice of the Peace for any local area shall have powers, within such area, to call upon any member of the police force on duty to aid him. He said police assumed the reputation of a politicized outfit rather than serve the people, which is what the state pays them for. It has also developed the reputation of a fearsome force in its own rights neglecting the suffering masses. Many inside the force have been reported accused and found guilty of running ‘rings’ even involving prostitution and many more. The government should facilitate the police force ease their working hours but also ensure a mechanism to check powers entrusted with them to counter terrorism and curb crime.

Analyst Shayyan Qaiser says section 22 empowers the Provincial Government to appoint any person as a justice of peace. The same ordinance added Section 22-A excluding sub-section (6), allows justices of peace to exercise certain police powers of arrest, and to require members of the police to render aid in certain circumstances. Section 22-B conferred various duties on justices of peace, including making inquiries regarding breach of peace or commission of any offence and rendering assistance to the police vis-a-vis investigation of offences.