LAHORE, Sept 14: The criminal law, especially dealing with the offence of rape, is in dire need of being brought in conformity with the needs of modern days to ensure speedy trial and conviction of the offenders. Criminal law experts opine that the modes of committing crime have been changed drastically in our society but criminals are being tried under the centuries-old law which is the prime reason for the low conviction rate in Pakistan.
According to statistics collected by an NGO, Madadgar National Helpline, for 2012, as many as 455 children were sexually abused, 246 boys were sodomised and 330 girls were raped in the country.
“Witness to the victim is sufficient for the punishment of the culprits subject to the satisfaction of court,” says Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar who was discussing the recent horrific incident of ‘gang-rape’ endured by a five-year girl in Lahore.
He says “child witness” is admissible in the law and punishment can be awarded exclusively on the statement of the victim. Otherwise, he says, the police have to collect circumstantial evidence which appears to be a hard task for a force lacking in investigation procedure.
Advocate Tarar believes that poor investigation system and obsolete law are the reasons behind less conviction in criminal cases in the country. Citing statistics of Amnesty International, he says the conviction rate in Pakistan was less than 10 per cent till 2011 while India had 38 per cent.
Advocate Asad Jamal says a lack of witness protection in our legal system is a main reason for less conviction in criminal cases. He says in many cases not only complainants but the witnesses also withdraw their statements owing to security issues. He says rape is a non-compoundable offence, however, courts normally accept compromises and set aside the conviction.
He points out that the Supreme Court has issued a series of directions in many cases to the government to introduce amendments to laws.
The lawyer also stresses the need for increase in force of women police and suggests that the cases of rape should be investigated by women investigators for the comfort of the victim.
He says the police should be sensitised and trained on modern techniques to prevent such crime. He also urges the legislators to introduce a timeframe of 30 days for courts to conclude the trial in rape cases.
The police have registered a case of the Mughalpura gang-rape incident under sections 363 and 376 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), however, legal experts believe that cases of rape should be registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act and tried by special court too to give maximum penalty to rapists.
Advocate Aftab Bajwa says each incident which spreads a wave of fear or terror in society is required to be dealt with anti-terrorism law. He further says there must be a time limit for the conclusion of trial in rape cases so that justice can be done speedily.
He sees the case of the five-year old girl raped by unidentified culprits as a test case for the police as there is no eyewitness account of the incident so far. Advocate Bajwa says court should convict the culprit(s), if arrested, on the statement of the victim.
Prosecutor General Punjab Sadaqat Ali Khan claims that conviction in rape cases involving minor victims is above 90 per cent. However, he admits low conviction in cases having adult victims. He maintains that a majority of the victims opt for compromise in such cases and withdraw their cases.
Mr Khan says forensic science plays a vital role in investigation of rape cases. He states in most of the cases of rape the police trace real culprits with the help of DNA test.