President signs law to grant statutory bail to under trial prisoners

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday singed the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2011 to make a law that seeks to grant statutory bail both to under trial prisoners and the convicts whose trials and appeals have not been disposed of within a prescribed time limit.The Bill was signed into law at a special ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sadr that was witnessed among others by Chairman Senate Farooq H. Naek.Leader of the House in Senate Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, Federal Law Minister designate Senator Maula Bakhsh Chandio, Chairperson National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice Begum Nasim Akhter Chaudhry, Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi, former Law Minister Babar Awan, Advisor to the Prime Minster for Law and Justice Ghulam Farooq Awan, Secretary General M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary to the President Malik Asif Hayat, Attorney General Justice (Retd) Maulvi Anwar-ul-Haq, Secretary Law M. Masood Chishti, Advisor Legal Presidency Justice (Retd) Ali Nawaz Chowhan, Ms Farahanaz Ispahani MNA and Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar.Briefing the media about the new law Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said that henceforth an under trial prisoner shall be entitled to statutory bail if he has been charged with any offence not punishable with death and has been detained for one year.

In case of an offence punishable with death the accused shall be liable to statutory bail if the trial had not been concluded in two years, he added.Farhatullah Babar said that convicts whose appeals are pending will also be entitled to statutory bail. A convict will be entitled to statutory bail if the term of imprisonment did not exceed three years and the appeal had not been decided within 6 months of conviction, he said.In case of imprisonment exceeding three years but less than seven years the convict will be entitled to statutory bail if the appeal remained undecided even after one year of conviction.If a convict has been sentenced to life imprisonment or imprisonment for more than seven years will be entitled to bail if his appeal remained undecided even after two years of conviction, he said.He said that the law envisaged special concessions to under trial women prisoners. The time frame specified for under trial women prisoners for eligibility to statutory bail is half of the time frame for male convicts, he said.A woman under trial prisoner will thus be entitled to statutory bail if she is accused of any offence not punishable with death and has been detained for over six months.

In case of an offence punishable with death the accused woman prisoner shall be liable to statutory bail if the trial had not been concluded in one year instead of two years as in case of male under trial prisoners, he said.Farhatullah Babar said that this concession however will not be allowed to a previously convicted offender for an offence punishable with death or life imprisonment or to a person, who in the opinion of the trial or appellate court is a hardened, desperate or dangerous criminal or is accused of an act of terrorism punishable with death or life imprisonment.Henceforth no person will be kept in jail indefinitely due to either delay in commencement of the trial or disposal of their appeals, he added.Giving background, Farhatullah Babar said that the process of amendments was initiated in 2008 after the PPP government was installed in office. The then Law Minister Farooq Naek, now Chairman Senate, was tasked by President Zardari to propose suitable amendments in the light of the party manifesto, the universal practice and consistent with the principles of basic human rights.

Farooq Naek was tasked to restore the law as it existed before it was changed in mid 90’s only to hound and torture Asif Ali Zardari and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and also to improve upon the previous law, he said.It may be recalled that the provision of statutory bail was withdrawn to deny Asif Zardari bail and the concessions specific to women were withdrawn to hound Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Thus ordinary citizens were made to suffer unspeakable hardships only to settle scores with Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari.The amendments drafted by the then Law Minister Farooq Naek nearly three years ago passed through various stages of the legislative processes to finally become a law today, he said.President Zardari speaking on the occasion said that his head bowed in gratitude before Allah for having undone a grave wrong inflicted on the people of Pakistan for no fault of theirs who were made to suffer only because political scores were to be settled with him.The President also called upon the women parliamentarians to propose further amendments to the law whereby a woman was entitled to bail even in a police station.The President also congratulated the legal team and the Parliament for finally passing the Bill to set right a grave wrong. – APP