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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has rejected a proposed amendment in Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1898, which was meant to allow an accused to surrender his or her property voluntarily on the justification that it grants unbridled authority to investigators which might be misused.

At a recent cabinet meeting, Interior Division contended that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1898 was the uniform law of criminal procedure for the sub- continent which came into force through the Act X of 1882 and was replaced by the present Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (Act V of 1898) . Since then, the code had undergone multiple amendments, the major being the Law Reforms Ordinance, 1972 (XII of 1972), and the Ordinance No. XXXVII of 2001 whereby, the executive and judiciary were bifurcated (the powers, which were vested in one office i.e. District Magistrate).

Under the new system, the judicial duties were transferred to other Executive Magistrates and Judiciary (Judicial Magistrates of First, Second and Third Class). The code provided a mechanism to promote the cause of justice, and technicalities and procedural intricacies.

The scheme of the code was to help the court in order to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused, which was a serious business. It commenced with a pre-trial exercise to be judicially carried out by a Judicial Magistrate. The Code, along with Qanun-e-Shahadat Order 1984, tried to exhaustively deal with the law of procedure in respect of general administration of criminal law. It was not designed to bend in favour of the prosecution or the accused side, rather to arrive at the truth. In principle, its objective is to provide machinery for the trial and punishment of offenders against the substantive criminal laws, such as the Pakistan Penal Code.

Money Laundering and terror financing were two major obstacles which were not only playing a degrading role against the development of a country but also imbuing such elements with financial strength which was an ultimate threat against the internal and external peace of the country. The genuine purpose behind the introduction of this means Bill was to enable the Law Enforcement Authorities through insertions In the Code to take certain encountering techniques with an authoritative support of the courts of law to curb menaces.

A series of meetings was held with different stakeholders including Provincial Home Departments, CTDs, FIA and NAB to finalize the amendments. A draft Bill for these amendments was vetted by the Ministry of Law and Justice.

During discussion, a query was raised on 265-E, allowing voluntary return. It was opined that this was against the spirit of accountability and transparency. There was a consensus among members that the proposed amendment should be discarded. It also pointed out that the amendment in its present form grants unbridled authority to investigators which might be misused.

The Ministry of Interior Ministry had submitted the following amendment to the cabinet. The amendment of section 265-E, Act of 1898- in the code, in section 265-E, after sub-section(2), the following new sub-section shall be added, namely " (3) if an accused of an offense pleads guilty any other person accepts his involvement in the commission of an offence under any law in force, the court may accept voluntary surrender of the property used or intended to be used in the commission of such offence including the gain made in any form there on, or any other property of an equivalent value of such accused or any other person. The provisions of this sub-section shall be in additions to and not in derogation of, any other law of the time being in force."

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020