EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Provision of speedy & inexpensive justice is our prime objective

– Law Minister Farogh Naseem

Barrister Farogh Naseem, a politician and a leading lawyer, assumed the responsibilities of the Federal Minister for Law and Justice in the present tenure of the PTI-led coalition Federal Government. He was elected to the Senate of Pakistan from Sindh against a Technocrat seat in March 2012. In 2018, he was re-elected as a Senator on the General seat from Sindh. On a number of occasions he rendered his services as amicus curiae before the High Courts and Supreme Court of Pakistan in intricate cases. Besides, he has also conducted international arbitrations. As a top lawyer, he has hundreds of reported judgments to his credit in constitutional, services, civil, corporate, commercial and tax matters. He has previously served as the youngest Advocate General of Sindh in 2008. He has also served as the Head of the Pakistan Bar Council in the year 2016-17. In an interview Mr Naseem explained the challenges and performance of the PTI government during the past two years.

Question: What is the overall responsibility of the Ministry of Law and Justice?

Ans: Ministry of Law and Justice has a unique position of being a focal point among the judiciary, legislative and executive organs of the state. It is a service ministry basically which tenders advice to all the offices of the federal government, including the provincial governments, on legal, judicial and constitutional matters. It also deals with drafting, scrutiny and examination of bills, legal instruments and adaptation of existing laws to bring them in conformity with the constitution. The Ministry of Law is also entrusted with the Federal Government functions in relation to the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Sales Tax and Central Excise and the Accountability Courts.

Question: What were your key objectives when becoming Minister for Law and Justice?

Ans: Our endeavours were to take necessary measures to ensure the dispensation of speedy and inexpensive justice for the common man by introducing civil and criminal reforms in the legal system; to develop legal capacities and expertise aimed at achieving integrity of the Ministry’s work and decisions; to improve the efficiency of resource utilization in the Ministry; to upgrade the quality of the Ministry’s services provided to the government departments clients, to achieve institutional excellence; and to enable and apply the highest levels of digital services in the Ministry.

Question: What steps you took to achieve these targets?

Ans: We introduced legal reforms, digital services within the ministry and besides appointment of judges for the special courts also took several measures. In order to provide speedy and inexpensive justice which was a part of the manifesto of PTI government, the law ministry introduced “The Letters of Administration and Succession Certificate Act, 2019, The Enforcement of Women’s Property Right Bill, 2019, The WhistleBlower Protection and Vigilance Commission Bill, 2019, The Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2019, The Legal Aid and Justice Authority Bill, 2019, The Mutual Legal Assistance Bill, 2019, The Service Tribunals (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Question: The minorities are facing some legal problems related to marriages and divorce. Did the law ministry introduce something for them?

Ans: We introduced Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill to streamline the legal issues faced by the Christian minority.

In addition we also amended the Muslim Family Law and brought reform in criminal and anti-corruption laws.

Question: The law ministry is criticized for invoking laws through promulgating Presidential ordinances more than the formal legislation which is Act of Parliament. Can you explain this?

Ans: In the last two years, the Parliament passed 27 Act of Parliament whereas 39 Presidential Ordinance were promulgated during this period. Under the constitution Ordinances being alternate legislation can be promulgated by the President. However, the reason as to why the numbers of Ordinances have surpassed the Act of Parliament is the non-cooperation of opposition. Since the ruling party does not have a majority in the upper house Senate, therefore, in order to introduce much needed laws, the law ministry promulgated the ordinances.

Question: What steps have been taken to enable common man and lawyers to access the collection of Acts and Ordinances?

Ans: First ever online archival collection of the Federal Acts and Ordinances 1946 to 2018, can be accessed by any member of the public on our website. First ever digitization of Rules made from 1848 to 1973 in process. New dynamic interactive website has been made and is ready for launch.

The Ministry of Law and Justice has completed all tasks assigned by the Prime Minister within stipulated time through PMDU and no RED letter has been issued to the Law Ministry till to-date. E-Office software has been deployed and we have trained all relevant staff but at present it is not functional due to non-provision of computers from the Ministry of IT and funds from the Ministry of Finance despite the direction of the Cabinet Division.

First ever online activation of Pakistan code.gov.pk which can be accessed by any member of the public anytime and anywhere which includes all the applicable laws to date as well as subordinate legislation enacted under the relevant statutes.

Question: How does the Ministry cope with the challenges of appointment of judges in the special courts?

Ans: Many seats of Presiding Officers of Special Courts/Tribunals were vacant for the last few years which were causing a huge backlog of cases and delays in administering justice to the public at large adding to their frustration and agony. The PTI government in the last two years has appointed many judges and we are committed to ensure smooth running of these Special Courts/Tribunals. Recently this government has established a Special Court (Central) Gujranwala and for better access to justice, proposal for establishing more courts/tribunals is under consideration.

Question: What are other achievements of your Ministry in the last two years?

Ans: Approximately 600 cases were referred by different departments of the government for legal opinion which involved highly technical, sensitive, complicated and intricate legal issues. Based on research and consultation of references on extensive basis all such cases were disposed of in public interest. Disposal of such a huge number of cases while maintaining the qualitative aspect is unprecedented in the history of this Ministry. During the period from August, 2018 to July, 2020, 716 cases received for opinion were disposed of.

Question: What efforts have been made to reduce the burden of courts?

Ans: We have introduced Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) legislation. Under ADR Rules, the Federal Government is mandated to notify ADR Centre’s in Public and Private Sector and to issue instructions for establishment and maintenance of ADR Centers. The routine matters, other than criminal cases may swiftly be decided in ADR Centers instead of lengthy courts proceeding. The courts will also be eased and the people will get swift and inexpensive justice through ADR.

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