Mar 5, 2009

One step back

In an unusual step down, the ordinance setting up mobile courts through an amendment in the Criminal Procedure Code has been withdrawn. The president took the step on the advice of the prime minister, who accepted in parliament that the proposed law was ill-timed and could add to political complications. There seems little doubt that the vocal criticism of the law led to the decision to make a rapid retreat. The whole affair of course leaves the government very red in the face. But the fact that a proposal that could have created immense political storm has been taken back is a positive development. We can ill-afford greater political turmoil at this time. The motives behind the move to have courts that would dispense 'instant’ justice were always dubious. The suspicion that the real purpose was to split lawyers was voiced by a strident opposition. We must hope that the outcry over the ill-advised move and the fact that it had to be withdrawn have taught the government some lessons. It must realize that issues that relate to offering justice to people and indeed many others that have an impact on their lives cannot be decided upon behind closed doors for the sake of expediency. Consensus needs to be built, and this can happen only through open debate and discussion. The National Assembly is, of course, the right forum for this. The president has been caught completely on the wrong foot. He and his aides must take heed of what has happened and ensure that similar attempts to fool people are not made in the future, simply to serve specific political needs.

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