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Senate to take up resolutions for joint sitting

Senate to take up resolutions for joint sitting

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on the opening day of its new session on Monday will take up two resolutions seeking a joint session of parliament for considering the bills that have lapsed after the National Assembly failed to approve them.

The house is also set to take up a resolution moved by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) urging the government to appoint a foreign minister, according to the 35-point agenda issued for the private members’ day.

The resolution is expected to be backed by all the opposition parties which have been demanding the appointment of a foreign minister.

Under Article 70(3) of the Consti­tution, if a bill is rejected or not passed by a house within 90 days, “the bill at the request of the house in which it originated shall be considered in a joint sitting” of parliament.

The Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape (Prevention and Punish­ment) Bill, 2015 and the Un-attended Orphans (Rehabilitation and Welfare) Bill, 2016 — moved by PPP’s Farhatullah Babar and Dr Karim Khawaja, respectively — were sent to the National Assembly after their passage by the Senate two years ago.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had on more than one occasion bemoaned that progressive legislation passed by the upper house had often been ignored by the assembly.

The chairman had made these observations when previously the government had failed to get approved from the National Assembly seven important bills passed by the Senate.

The anti-torture bill defines torture as inflicting physical or mental pain upon a person in custody, for obtaining any information or a confession, or harassing and molesting a woman for this purpose.

It provides for a minimum of five-year jail and fine up to Rs1 million for torture. However, custodial death or rape is punishable with life imprisonment and a fine of Rs3m.

According to the bill, any statement obtained as a result of torture will be inadmissible as evidence. A state of war, emergency, political instability or an order of a superior authority shall not constitute a defence against torture.

No woman shall be detained to extract information regarding the whereabouts of a person accused of any offence.

Under the bill, a woman can be taken into custody only by a female public servant and not by any male.

Every offence under it is cognisable, non-compoundable and non-bailable. A public servant accused of torture shall, prior to initiation of the investigation, be suspended or transferred to a different location. The lower courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction to try offences.

Complaints of torture may be filed either with the FIA or before a session judge against any person, including a public servant.

Investigation on complaints of torture shall be completed within 14 days. Trials shall be completed within three weeks. Appeals can be filed before the respective high court within 10 days and decided in 30 days.

Complaints filed with mala fide intent are punishable with imprisonment of up to a year or with fine of up to Rs100,000.

The statement of objects of the other bill states that the un-attended orphans and children of unknown parentage face many problems, resulting in such children getting involved in crimes and other social evils.

The bill seeks to protect the rights of these children and provision of facilities to and launching for welfare schemes for their rehabilitation.

Published in Dawn February 13th, 2017

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