Islamabad May 16 2023: The National Assembly of Pakistan on Tuesday passed a private member’s bill aimed at condemning and awarding punishment for the actions that accounted for breach of the sovereignty and integrity of the Parliament in any form or shade.
The bill was moved by Chairman Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges Rana Muhammad Qasim Noon which was passed by the House. Minister for Federal Education and professional Training Rana Tanveer Hussain appreciated the bill and said that this would help to improve oversight role of the Parliament.
After the passage of the bill, the mover Rana Muhammad Qasim Noon said that it was an historical moment in the parliamentary history of the country.
It would ensure the supremacy of Parliament which was mother of all the institutions, he said adding that such legislation was made in four provinces but it did not exist at the federal level.
He said this legislation would ensure proper functioning of the standing committees and parliamentary oversight role would be effective after it.
Rana Qasim Noon said that it would be contempt to breach the privilege of the parliament and those involved in such acts could be punished.
He thanked Speaker National Assembly, Secretariat, Minister for Commerce Naveed Qamar, Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar and members of Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges for their cooperation and guidance over the legislative proposal.
According to this bill, a House through a motion may charge any person for contempt of a House and; the Speaker or the Chairman Senate, may refer the matter to the Contempt Committee. When a Committee is of the view that any person shall be charged for its contempt, the Chairman of that Committee may move such motion in the House.
The Speaker shall within thirty days of the commencement of this Act, constitute a Contempt Committee for the purposes mentioned in this Act. The Contempt Committee shall consist of twenty-four members having equal representation from each house.
The Contempt committee shall have fourteen members from the Treasury Benches, duly nominated by the Leader of the House including seven Members from each House and ten from the opposition Benches, five from each House duly nominated by the Leader of the Opposition of each House.
Secretary, National Assembly Secretariat shall act as the Secretary of the Contempt Committee. Decisions of the contempt Committee shall be the decision of majority of members present and voting shall be in the form of recommendations.
The bill states that right of fair trial as enshrined in the Constitution shall be provided to each but no one shall be allowed to appear before the Committee through legal practitioner or an Advocate. The Contempt Committee in its first meeting shall elect a Chairman from amongst its members.
It states that contempt committee shall have power to declare any of the proceedings before it as in camera.
The Contempt Committee shall have powers as vested in civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (V of 1908), for enforcing the attendance of any person and compelling the production of documents.
The Chairman may direct the issuance of summon of any person, to appear before the Committee, to give evidence or to produce documents in his possession or under his control. Such summons shall be duly signed by the Secretary Committee.
Any person so summoned , not being the official, shall be entitled to receive such travelling and daily allowances as may be admissible to a witness summoned by a Civil Court in connection with proceedings under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (V of 1908).
Summons issued under this section shall be served through registered post/urgent mail service, addressed to the person to whom it is directed, at his last known place of residence or business:
If a person to whom summon is issued, does not appear or willfully avoids to appear before the Committee, or avoids service, the Chairman may, upon being satisfied that the summon was duly served under this section, may issue a warrant for his appearance through local police, at such time and place stated in the warrant for his appearance, provided that no such warrant shall be issued without prior approval of the Speaker or the Chairman Senate, as the case may be.
If production of documents or giving evidence pertains to any Government Ministry/Division/Department or Organization, the administrative head of the respective Organization may decline to produce a document on the ground that its disclosure would be prejudicial to the defense, security or external relations of Pakistan or detrimental to public interest.
A House, on recommendations of the committee, shall have the power to award any of the punishments prescribed under this Act:
Whoever is found guilty of contempt of a House or a Committee shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to ten million rupees or with both.
Any decision of a House shall be executed and enforced by judicial magistrate under whose territorial jurisdiction the accused is temporarily residing under relevant provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (V of 1898). Appeal against any decision of a House can be filed before the Joint Sitting, within thirty days of announcement of the decision.
The Joint Sitting may refer such appeal to the Committee of Joint Sitting, which shall give its final report within thirty days. The Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) may prescribe rules prescribing procedure regarding such appeal.
All proceedings before the Committee shall be deemed to be a quasi-judicial proceedings while any document produced or evidence recorded by Committee shall not be admissible as evidence in any court.
Any person giving evidence or producing documents before the Committee shall not be liable to any civil, criminal or departmental proceedings by reasons whatsoever.
The House adopted the amendments moved by Minister for Commerce Syed Qamar which says that the committee may by notification in official Gazette may make rules under the purposes of this act.
The statement of objects and reasons of the bill says, ‘Whereas, the loyalty to State is the duty of every citizen under Article 5 of the Constitution and whereas, the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) of Pakistan enjoys sovereignty to frame laws on the Federal subjects, the obedience to the Parliamentary oversight has to be given ultimate importance.
Parliamentary Committees act as extension of their respective Houses and such Committees not only give threadbare consideration to proposed legislation but also perform over-sighting functions including conduct of public hearings.
At times, the people do not appear before these Committees despite notices which not only undermines the respect of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) but also hampers proceedings of such Committees as well as redressal of public grievances. Entry 42 of the federal Legislative List of the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution empowers Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) to make laws for the punishment, by a House, of persons who refuse to give evidence or produce documents before a Committee of a House, when duly required by the Chairman of the Committee to do so.
Therefore, there is a need to frame law providing for punitive measures against persons who are reluctant to comply with the directions of a House of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or a Committee thereof.
The Bill aims at condemning and awarding punishment for the actions that accounts for breach of the sovereignty and integrity of the prestigious House of the Majlis-e Shoora (Parliament) in any form or shade”.