48-hour detention: Minister to consult Cabinet, all parties

By Chandani Kirinde

Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem said yesterday he would consult the Cabinet and opposition party leaders over extending the validity of the Criminal Procedure Code (Special Provisions) Act that empowers the Police to hold suspects arrested without a warrant in detention for 48 hours.

A move to get the Act extended was stymied by the Opposition last Thursday. It was deferred after the main opposition United National Party (UNP) objected to it on the grounds that the provisions had already lapsed as it did not get the mandatory Parliamentary approval it required in 2009.

Mr. Hakeem said the Cabinet would decide on other means to validate the provisions of the Act if its approval in Parliament was obstructed by the opposition.The Bill enacted in 2007 was to be in operation for two years but in 2009, a Gazette Extraordinary published seeking an extension of its operation by two more years did not receive parliamentary approval.

The UNP said that the Act had hence lapsed and Parliament could not extend the validity of a nonexistent Act. Mr. Hakeem said the matter would be taken up for discussion at a meeting of the Justice Ministry’s Consultative Committee when Parliament met later this month so as to dispel any doubts the Opposition had regarding the legality of extending the validity of the Act.

The Minister maintained that there was no stipulated period within which the validity of the Act had to be approved by Parliament. “We are seeking parliamentary approval for both extensions (2009 and 2011),” the Minister said.

The Act requires the order published in the gazette to be placed before Parliament for approval and a further notification to be issued specifying the date on which such approval was given. The latest gazette notification was issued by Minister Hakeem extending the validity of the Act by two years from May 31 this year. The previous gazette notification had been made by the then acting Justice Minster V. Puthirasigamany in May 2009 though it was not approved by Parliament.

The Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Act allows for persons arrested without a warrant to be detained up to 48 hours.

It also allows the Attorney General to forward indictment directly to the High Court in special cases where murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, rape, and offences committed with the use of explosives or an offensive weapon or gun.

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