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ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to redesignate Accountability Court-IV Rawalpindi as an insurance tribunal, which will serve the entire northern region of the country, well-informed sources in the Ministry of Law and Justice told Business Recorder.

On May 19, 2023, Law & Justice Division stated that recently, the Lahore High Court through letter of April 05, 2023 directed the Ministry to establish an additional Insurance Tribunal within the territorial jurisdiction of Rawalpindi.

Section 121(l) of the Insurance Ordinance, 2000 stipulated - “121. Constitution of the Tribunal - (1) The Federal Government shall constitute a Tribunal or Tribunals in consultation with the Commission and shall in respect of each Tribunal so constituted specify the territorial limits within which, or the class or classes in respect of which each such Tribunal such exercise jurisdiction under this Ordinance.

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The Commission was defined as ‘Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan’ under Section-2 (xiii) of the Insurance Ordinance, 2000. In response to Law & Justice Division’s letter of April 12, 2023, the SECP had agreed to establish an Insurance Tribunal at Rawalpindi; Law & Justice Division administered Accountability Courts across the country established under National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999. Pursuant to the Order of October 12, 2020 the Supreme Court of Pakistan in SMRP No. 420/2019 in CP No. 258/2017, thirty Accountability Courts were established in addition to already existing twenty four Accountability Courts, under the Division’s Notification of February 15, 2021.

Necessary supporting staff and logistic support was provided to these courts in a timely manner. An amount of Rs. 23.87 million was earmarked and allocated to establish and functionalize one Accountability Court.

Ministry of Law and Justice carried out a functional analysis of Accountability Courts under its administrative control. It had been observed that after a lapse of two years and promulgation of the second amendment in NAO, 1999 of August 12, 2022, no case was lying pending in Accountability Court-IV, Rawalpindi and only five cases were pending in four Accountability Courts at Rawalpindi. The situation was clearly a burden on the government in terms of financial liabilities as well as human resource management.

Accordingly, Ministry of Law and Justice considered it appropriate and viable to redesignate Accountability Court-IV, Rawalpindi by converting it to Insurance Tribunal, Rawalpindi. The supporting staff and budget along with assets of the Court would be adjusted in the proposed establishment. No additional funds would be required for this exercise.

After explaining the background of the case, Law & Justice Ministry proposed that: (i) Insurance Tribunal, Rawalpindi may be established by re- designating/converting the Accountability Court-IV, Rawalpindi, under the administrative control of Law & Justice Division; and (ii) consequent upon approval of the Federal Cabinet to the proposal made at Para-7 (0), the abolishment and re-designation/conversion of Accountability Court-IV, Rawalpindi into Insurance Tribunal and Rawalpindi may be notified, accordingly.

During discussion, a query was made about the number of pending cases in the Rawalpindi area. It was informed that the Insurance Tribunal would serve the entire north Punjab, where hundreds of industrial and family claims were pending. The members then preferred suggestions for conversion of underutilized Accountability Courts into Banking Courts and establishing dedicated courts for land litigations as well as Commercial Courts to bolster the confidence of foreign investors.

It was informed that an Alternate Dispute Resolution Centre had been established at Islamabad High Court, which would mainly attend to commercial disputes. This could be replicated in other parts of the country as well.

The issue of inter-ministerial litigation, especially in the international courts, was also highlighted, which resulted in a waste of government resources. It was suggested that a specific law should be framed to avoid litigation amongst the government entities. A member suggested constitution of two task forces: one on criminal justice reforms; and the other on business laws reforms for business-friendly legal environment.

It was noted that a comprehensive package on improving criminal justice system was in the pipeline and would be presented shortly.

After detailed discussion the Cabinet approved the proposal of Ministry of Law and Justice meant to redesignate Accountability Court-IV Rawalpindi into Insurance Tribunal which will serve the entire Northern Zone.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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