Pakistan News

No homework done to restore an ‘effective’ DC office

No homework done to restore an ‘effective’ DC office

LAHORE: Heavily assigned but weak deputy commissioners (DCs) are going to be the “face of the state” in Punjab districts after local elections, even without any legal powers to direct police to assist them if required to establish the writ of the government.

“Yes we are once again going to have deputy commissioners. But they will not be as the ones having charge of districts before Gen Musharraf abolished the office in 2001,” remarked an official on Sunday.

Officials said the new DCs will be assisted by additional deputy commissioners generals (ADCGs) and revenue, and assistant commissioners.

The main strength of the DC office in the past was the executive magistracy and there is no move as yet to restore it. The Balochistan government had restored the executive magistracy but the step was declared void by the high court of the province.

Balochistan in turn filed an appeal before the Supreme Court. All the other provinces and the federal government have, as a result of a May 29, 2014 decision by the Council of Common Interests (CCI), become a party to the case which is still pending a decision.

The same CCI meeting had also approved in principle amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1898 so as to restore the executive magistracy. The interior ministry had moved a summary in this regard but the needful is still waited.

The executive and administrative powers of the previous DC-cum-district magistrate were divided between the judiciary and police and authorities say “these are no-go areas” at present, meaning thereby that there is no plan to withdraw such powers to avoid confrontation with both the institutions.

By introducing devolution Gen Musharraf had not only abolished the laws that governed the office of the deputy commissioner-district magistrate but also the Police Act 1861, replacing it with Police Order 2002. And now when the government is going to reintroduce the office there is no plan to abolish the Police Order 2002 and reintroduce the Police Act 1861 or its new version.

Officials say the government fears that abolishing the Police Act 2002 will annoy police which it does not want to. And if the Police Act 1861 is not reintroduced, the deputy commissioner or district magistrate (if it is restored), will have no general supervision power over police which the colonial law provided for.

In addition, the DC as the district magistrate used to have powers of remand due to which police used to obey the office. But now police will have no such compulsion.

Officials say that in addition to the judicial authority of the district magistrate the judiciary was also given administrative powers of the DC office. Such powers would enable the DC (deputy commissioner-district magistrate) to command the authority needed to establish the writ of state.

These powers included authorisation and supervision of raids and arrests, and booking two rival parties if not agreeing to have a rapprochement.

Now, without the necessary implementation powers and the binding support of police, the district administration is going to be asked to enforce the writ of the government with regard to local and special laws which entails raids and arrests.

These laws, which are over 100 in number, envisage regulatory framework such as price control, anti-adulteration, anti-encroachment and anti-canal water theft campaigns, curbing black-marketing and hoarding and ensuring quality of development projects. In certain cases, the DCs will be required to maintain law and order through MPO and use revenue powers as representatives of the provincial government.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2015

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