A three member Bench headed by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja comprising of two other Hon’ble Judges namely Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Qazi Faez Isa has passed certain directions in the case regarding errors in printing/publishing of law books. The judgment authored by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja was announced today i.e. 10.02.2015 wherein it was observed that the complete and up-dated laws of land were neither available on the official websites of Provincial as well as Federal Government nor in hard form i.e. code.
Initially the matter was taken up in Suo Muto Case 01 of 2005 which was disposed of on 09.05.2013 wherein respective Bar Councils were directed to take action on complaints but no action whatsoever appeared to have been taken since then, so the matter was again noted to be taken up by this Court on 25.02.2014 during the hearing of a case.
Notices were issued to Provincial, Federal Governments and Bar Councils in order to devise an effective mechanism or legislation to ensure the publication of error free law books. Neither the Bar Councils nor the Federal or Provincial Governments showed any seriousness in addressing this major issue as they had not undertaken the exercise of codifying the statutes and subordinate legislation made pursuant to rule-making powers given to the respective executives by legislation. However, some steps were noted to be taken by the Punjab Government.
The Court has emphasized that in any civilized system of government, the first and foremost obligation of the government is to make sure that all applicable laws are easily available to citizens in easily understandable language. It was, therefore, a matter of great concern that the laws, whether Federal or Provincial, had not been translated into the national language which is a requirement of Article 251 of the Constitution or publicized in provincial/local languages if considered appropriate, in line with the constitutional provision in Article 28 of the Constitution.
Therefore, after hearing the Law Officers and the Law Secretaries of the five Governments and taking into account the reports submitted on behalf of the respective Governments in the present matter, the Court directed as under:
(i) The complete Pakistan Code (‘the Code’) shall be compiled and displayed on the website of the Federal Law Ministry.
(ii) Bound hard copies of the Code shall be made available for sale throughout the country so as to be easily accessible to the public, at inexpensive prices.
(iii) An alphabetical consolidated word index containing the words in the title of a statute and words defined in the provisions of a statute containing definitions shall be included in the alphabetical index.
(iv) As a sample of the required consolidated word index, the consolidated index appearing at the end of volume 16 of the Pakistan Code published by the Manager of Publications, Government of Pakistan, Karachi (1968) may be used as a rudimentary sample. Improvements in the sample must be made by use of technology and by benefiting from the Codes published by common law jurisdictions in the subcontinent and elsewhere.
(v) The Code shall include in foot-notes, particulars of amendments made from time to time in the various statutes published in the Code.
(vi) Marginal notes shall be made to cross reference the provisions of one statute with related provisions in another statute. The sample of the Pakistan Code published by the Manager of Publications (1968) may be adapted and improved.
(vii) Translation into the national language shall be completed and displayed in easily understandable form at inexpensive prices.
(viii) Translations of the Code into provincial/vernacular languages where deemed appropriate by provinces shall be made by the Provinces.
(ix) Subordinate legislation in the form of rules and regulations framed under statutory powers shall be compiled in the form of a Code. This shall also contain a consolidated word index.
(x) A compendium of all statutory orders and notifications shall be compiled and shall be made available to the public at inexpensive prices.
(xi) A legislative and/or administrative regime shall be prepared with effective enforcement and prosecution mechanisms to ensure that law publications for sale to the public are error free and, where applicable, have the permission of the Government owning copyrighted material.
(xii) The Provinces shall follow the same pattern of publication of soft and hard copies of laws, rules and notifications as has been ordered for the Federation.
Moreover, a copy of this judgment has been sent to the five Governments through their Chief Executives and Law Secretaries as well as to the Secretary of the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) with notice for 17.2.2015.