Landmark legal reforms

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THE Government has announced landmark legal reforms that would go a long way in ensuring rights of down-trodden segments of the society and provision of relief to the aggrieved parties with much less cost and time period as against proverbial delays in the prevailing rotten system. These reforms cover areas like issuance of succession certificate to legal heirs of a deceased; women’s property rights; establishment of legal aid and justice authority, benami transactions and Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission.
The legal reforms promulgated through eight ordinances by the President are indicative of the resolve of Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure quick and inexpensive resolution of day-to-day problems being faced by the citizens. At the moment, succession certificate is issued by courts and it takes much time, efforts and money for heirs of a deceased person to get the document, which is a must for distribution of what he or she has left behind. Under the new arrangement, NADRA shall be authorized to issue succession certificates when there is no dispute amongst the legal heirs within 15 days. NADRA would establish Succession Facilitation Units that would process applications for issuance of such certificates and setting up of this mechanism would also mean lowering of burden on courts and lessening of financial burden on applicants as they would not need to hire services of lawyers for the purpose. The Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Ordinance, 2019 would hopefully help protect and secure the rights of ownership and possession of women in properties.
The redressal mechanism provided for securing rights of women also means that they would be able to get their rights without long-drawn cases in civil courts as the matter would now be decided by the Ombudsman. Ombudsman would pass corrective orders under law and direct the Deputy Commissioner or any state functionary including the police to restore the possession or ownership. Currently, most of the people are unable to get justice as either they do not have the financial means to hire counsels to knock doors of courts or they don’t have the understanding of the law and their due rights. Establishment of Legal Aid and Justice Authority is, therefore, a welcome idea as it would provide legal, financial or other assistance and access to justice to the poor and vulnerable segments of the society in criminal cases. Apart from required legal aid, the Authority would also facilitate the extension of financial facilities such as provision of bail surety, fine and penalty amounts to the poor people. An amendment in Code of Civil Procedure is being interpreted as a mechanism to reduce 30/40 years period of civil litigation to maximum of 2 years. Judges have been empowered for spot checks to verify facts, modern devices would be used for issuance of summons and notices to defendants and multiple tiers of appeals and revision have been reduced to one Appeal to the High Court.
This would be a single most vital improvement in the system if it succeeds in bringing down the time period for disposal of civil cases as presently the litigants, sometimes, do not get justice during their life time. However, the amendment in the law that any person arrested under the provisions of NAB Ordinance for any offence involving any amount above fifty million rupees shall be entitled to “C” class or equivalent only in the prison irrespective of the stage of inquiry, investigation or trial would be construed as political vendetta as it would mostly hurt political leaders currently held by NAB without sufficient evidence against them. There was hardly any justification for introduction of such amendments in the law just to make life of the political opponents difficult. It is also a million dollar question whether the reforms would get clearance from the upper house of parliament when the ordinances have been promulgated without taking the opposition into confidence and bypassing parliament.