ISLAMABAD: The provincial assembly of Sindh is expected to take up a bill in its next session seeking DNA tests of the accused as well as victims in rape cases.

If taken, the landmark step would revamp the process of investigation of rape cases and offer great solace to the victims seeking justice against the brutal crime.

“The DNA testing (is) mandatory in Rape cases, in order to infuse certainty in the pursuit of justice by identifying the guilty and exonerating the innocent, and for matters connected therewith, or incidental thereto,” the bill moved by MPA Sharmila Faruqui reads.

The bill, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was submitted in the Sindh Secretariat on Friday and says that it is expedient and necessary to make DNA Testing mandatory for rape victims, as primary evidence, for effective dispensation of justice.

The bill seems to be a rejoinder to a recent argument by clerics-dominated Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) that DNA tests in rape cases were not in line with Islamic injunctions.

In its last month meeting the CII deliberated whether the DNA tests should be considered as admissible evidence in rape crimes. Though the CII did not make any decision, but some of the arguments of its members were disturbing.

Alama Tahir Ashrafi, a CII member, explained the council never made a formal decision against the DNA tests. He said the council would meet after Eid to take up the matter.

Every year, thousands of women face rape crimes. Majority cases go unreported. Those reported rarely reach any logical conclusion because under Hudood laws, a victim is required to produce four witnesses to prove she was raped.

Once approved, the bill shall be called the “Mandatory DNA Testing Act, 2013” and would have its jurisdiction to the whole of the Sindh province.

The bill seeks that the Sindh government must arrange for forensic labs and collection centers in every district of the province within 90 days from the date of its approval.

“DNA Testing shall be mandatorily conducted for the Rape Victim. In case a complaint is lodged within Optimal Time, Intimate DNA Sample shall be collected from the Rape Victim within the Optimal Time or within 12 hours from the lodging of the complaint, whichever is earlier,” it reads.

Even after the lapse of the optimal time, the police authorities and medical personnel shall make all efforts to collect and preserve Intimate DNA Sample and Non-Intimate DNA Sample to help the investigation.

Under the bill the rape victims would be escorted under police security to the hospital or forensic lab for the DNA Testing. It calls for maintaining complete privacy to the victim

The bill restricts any male police personnel or member of any other investigating agency to investigate, question or record statement of the victim. Likewise, the DNA tests can only be conducted by the female medical experts.

The bill seeks complete confidentiality of the information collected through the tests. It asks the government to make necessary arrangements to have best facilities to conduct the tests.

It is made obligatory to the provincial government to constitute Sindh DNA Testing Fund to bear all expenses relating to collection of DNA sample and conducting of DNA testing

Meanwhile, Ms Farooqi dispatched a letter to Sindh chief minister to make administration of DNA test and preservation of DNA evidence mandatory in all rape cases in accordance with a Supreme Court judgment dated October 2, 2012.

She urged upon the chief minister to set up a DNA test Laboratory in Karachi and bear cost of all DNA tests in rape cases.

She also requested the chief minister to direct – through the ministry of law – prosecutor general, Sindh and other provincial prosecution agencies to ensure strict implementation of a Sindh Assembly resolution in all rape cases.

Last month, the Sindh Assembly passed the resolution calling for DNA testing in all rape cases.

— Shahzad Raza is a freelance contributor. His twitter handle is @shahz79

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