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Under-trial women’s right of bail challenged in SC

ISLAMABAD: Freelance journalist Shahid Orakzai filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the grant of the right of bail for the release of under-trial women prisoners under a presidential ordinance. Orakzai maintained in his petition that offences in which male prisoners cannot be released on bail have been made possible for women. Under an amendment, the female under-trial prisoners were granted the right of bail in all cases, except terrorism and murder, and a number of female prisoners waiting for the trial are out on bail. The petitioner contended that although the law has been amended to grant the right of bail to all female prisoners, these freed women have become the most vulnerable segment of the society because in many cases their relatives refuse to accept them and in some cases women have no kith and kin and ultimately become easy prey for criminals.

Orakzai had already challenged the presidential ordinance in the Supreme Court, but a three-member bench at the apex court on December 7 this year had directed him to file a fresh case against the ordinance because an earlier ordinance to this effect had been re-promulgated by the president. The impugned ordinance was promulgated on July 6, 2006, but after four months, it lapsed and the president re-promulgated a fresh ordinance on November 8, 2006. President Pervez Musharraf has promulgated the amended ordinance for the protection of women rights, under which all under-trial female prisoners involved in criminal and Hudood cases had to be released on bail immediately after the completion of their bail process.

As a result of the promulgation of the amended ordinance, some 1,300 women prisoners who were languishing in different jails, mostly in Hudood cases, were supposed to come out of the jails. Offences under Hudood Ordinance were non-bailable and not compoundable but the presidential ordinance after an amendment to Section 497 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) would make the women prisoners involved in rape, adultery and other criminal and Hudood cases, except murder and terrorism, eligible to avail themselves of the benefit of bail. The petitioner prayed to the apex court to declare the substance and the re-promulgation of the impugned Criminal Procedure Code (2nd Amendment) Ordnance 2006 ultra-vires of the Constitution.

He further said that the re-promulgation of the ordinance indicated that the incumbent president, being a military officer, is not fully aware of his legislative powers, duties and functions. The petitioner prayed that the apex court may kindly elaborate his legislative role in articles 50, 54, 56, 75 and 89 of the Constitution. The petitioner informed the court that the president was compelled to sign some 23 ordinances in barely four months and the cabinet was still exercising many of the president’s legislative powers as before 1977 because of the constitutional misperceptions prevailing in the Punjab and Sindh, which wanted to take the president out of the legislative arena.
Source: The News
Date:12/27/2006

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