ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Wednesday approved ‘The Cost of Litigation Bill, 2017,’ according to which the losing side in a court case will be paying the cost of the case and a fine of Rs5,000 per hearing will be imposed on the party which gets an adjournment.
Chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice Mahmood Bashir Virk said the amount of the fine should be reduced to Rs2,000 which members of the law division agreed with.
However, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Mohammad Ali said that if an individual gets sick or has a family emergency and is not able to attend the hearing, the law should not be harsh and should have allowances for such situations and for waiving the fine.
To this, representatives of the law division said that in developed countries, people ensure they attend court hearings even if they are on the death bed.
Mr Ali said Pakistan is not a developed country and was bound to have some differences with developed countries.
The committee then decided that the court will have a onetime right to waive the fine, which it was decided will be Rs5,000. There is a trend in Pakistan for people to obtain stay orders and then try to prolong the case by getting adjournments.
In most cases defendants do not show up to hearings to ensure that the case is delayed and some cases have been going on for years.
“Many false cases, including criminal cases, are filed each year, which is why the bill was introduced. Deciding the cost of the case will be at the court’s discretion,” said Minister of Law and Justice Zahid Hamid, adding that the same law is followed in the UK.
But the government and its various departments also take adjournments and the same rule should be applied on the government as well, said PPP legislator Syed Naveed Qamar.
Since the government takes out adjournments as well, the law should be drafted by the high courts and not the government, said Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Iqbal.
However, Mr Hamid said it will be difficult to apply the law on the government and suggested that it should first be applied to cases between private parties and that it will later be considered if it should be applied on government departments as well.
The law minister explained that the law will be made in consultation with the Islamabad High Court as it will only be implemented in Islamabad first and later extended to the provinces if provincial assemblies pass the resolution.
He explained that under Article 144, a law can be enforced across the country if a provincial assembly passes a bill which has also been passed by parliament.
Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2017
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