ISLAMABAD, June 7: In order to conduct swift and secure trial in terrorism-related and sensitive cases, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) administration has decided to install video conferencing facilities in its both sessions’ divisions.

According to documents available with Dawn, the IHC registrar on May 2 directed the sessions division ‘east’ and ‘west’ to submit the project concept (PC-1) for the video conferencing facilities at their respective courts as well as Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. The PC-1 has been submitted to the Planning Commission which according to a senior judicial officer would take a couple of weeks for deliberations.

The PC-1 mentioned the cost of the project as Rs15.64 million which will be sponsored by the ministries of interior and law and justice, local government, and executed by the rural development department of Islamabad capital territory. It would be operated and maintained by both the ministries, IHC and the chief commissioner Islamabad.

According to the PC-1, the objectives of the project are to link the sessions courts with Adiala Jail for conducting the trial of prisoners and facilitate the recording of evidence of persons residing or working in other jurisdictions (cities or provinces) without their formal presence in the court.

Technically, one courtroom in the sessions court would be logistically and technically upgraded and converted into a video conferencing court.

Likewise, one room in Adiala Jail would also be upgraded and converted into a video conferencing room.

Former inspector general of police Saleemullah Khan said the video conferencing would enhance the police efficiency in cases of terrorism and litigation of other sensitive nature.

He said the prosecutors could also perform their jobs with more ease when the trial would be conducted through video conferencing because sometimes the presence of suspects involved in high-profile terrorism cases adversely affect their performance. It would also reduce the transportation cost of hardened criminals as sometimes they have to be brought on armoured personnel carriers from other cities and their repeated appearance in the court cost millions of rupees to the government.

Mr Khan, however, suggested that the government should also incorporate video conferencing in the law of evidence 1984 and insert a new section in it, adding the new section should also incorporate the admissibility of electronic evidence like SMS, MMS, emails, photography and video recording. He said due to outdated law of evidence, about 80 per cent criminals managed their acquittal through the courts.

Deputy Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri said superior courts in various cases had accepted the recording of evidence through video conferencing, adding the witnesses would be at more liberty while recording their testimonies through video conferencing.

He said in most of the cases witnesses avoided appearing in the courts because of the fear of retaliation from terrorists and criminals.

Ordinary citizens in various instances changed their statements when they encountered hardened criminals in courts who tried to pressure them through their facial expressions, eye contacts or other gestures.

Advocate Basharatullah Khan, the defence counsel for various high-profile terrorism cases, however, said the witnesses should not be allowed to record their statements through video conferencing.

He said the defence counsel needed physical presence of a witness in the courtroom during cross examination.

Video conference till the extent of jail trial is good because it would save the time of judges and lawyers but the witnesses should physically be summoned in the court for fair trial, he added.

Updated Jun 07, 2012 11:27pm

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