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Reinstatement of judicial power of exec magistrates rejected

Bangladesh on 12 September 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : New Age, Bangladesh

The law ministry on Wednesday rejected the Cabinet Division’s proposal for the reinstatement of executive magistrates’ power to take cognisance of offences.

The administrative service officials were stripped of judicial powers through the separation of the judiciary from the executive branch with effect from November 1, 2007 in line with the Supreme Court directives detailed in 1999.

The Cabinet Division on September 2 sent a letter to the law ministry for ‘implementation of the decision came from an open discussion of divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners with the prime minister.’

The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on July 23 inaugurated the annual conference of the deputy commissioners in Dhaka. 

The letter, signed by Cabinet Division senior assistant secretary Altaf Hossain Seikh, mentioned that the prime minister had told the conference that the legal aspect regarding the proposal for reinstatement of executive magistrate’s power to take cognisance of offences might be discussed with the ministry concerned.

In reply, the law ministry on Wednesday informed the Cabinet Division that trial of a case commenced with taking cognisance of the offence in according with Section 190 (4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898. 

There is no scope of empowering executive magistrate’s to take cognisance of offences as it is a judicial power and a part of the trial procedure, said the reply of the law ministry signed by senior assistant secretary (judicial wing) Mohammad Shahin Uddin.

The law ministry also said that such empowerment of executive magistrates would be a threat to the independence of the judiciary and contradictory to the spirit of the separation of the judiciary from the executive wing.  

The ministry, however, asked the Supreme Court registrar to issue directives, if necessary, to the lower courts to reduce backlog of cases.

The cabinet division’s letter said in November 2007, when the judiciary became independent of the executives, 5.63 lakh cases were pending with the magistracy, but the figure increased to 10.73 lakh as of December 31, 2011 according to a statistics of the Supreme Court. 

The Cabinet Division said that the judiciary would remain vibrant and the backlog of cases would be reduced if the executive magistrates was empowered to take cognisance of offences.

The same demand was raised in several conferences after the separation of the judiciary.

The executive magistrates are now operating mobile courts that can try an offence summarily only when the accused confesses to the offence.

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