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Delay hits trial of 80 cases

Updated August 12, 2013

KARACHI, Aug 11: The timely disposal of over 80 complaints hangs in the balance as the lone drug court in the province has been non-functional for around one-and-a-half months, it emerged on Sunday.

The legal proceedings came to a halt at the drug court as one of its members resigned on June 17 and no appointment has so far been made to make it functional.

The court was established under the Drugs Act, 1976 to prosecute accused for violating the law which regulates the import, export, storage, distribution, manufacturing and sale of life-saving drugs.

Initially, the drug court in Karachi was set up for both Sindh and Balochistan provinces, but it was specified for Sindh in 1998 after a drug court was established in Quetta.

The drug court comprises a chairman, who is qualified for appointment as a judge of the high court, and two members, who must be expert in medical or pharmaceutical fields.

At present, the drug court comprises Sathi M. Ishaq (chairman) and Dr Nighat Qadri (member). Dr Javed Bukhari, who was a member, resigned on June 17, leaving the court non-functional, as under the Drugs Act the court could not hear any case if it is inquorate in the absence of any member.

A court official said that the appointment of members was the responsibility of the federal law ministry, but no appointment had so far been made despite a passage of over a month.

Besides, the court could work only three days in a week even if the quorum was complete because the members were appointed on a part-time basis and they were not available for five working days in a week, he added.

He further said that the trial of 81 cases was pending before the court and the proceedings would remain suspended till the appointment of a second member.

Sources said that that a large number of cases were awaiting approval as a quality control board took extra time to grant sanction for trial.

They said that under the law drug inspectors were not authorised to register a case without the permission of a quality control board as the provincial inspectors on finding any contravention of this act shall, unless the board otherwise directs, always refer the case to the provincial quality control board and seek orders on the action to be taken in respect of such contravention.

Similarly, according to the law, the federal drug inspectors must refer the case to the central licensing board or the registration board or any other authority as may be specified for the purpose.

After collecting samples of drugs, the inspectors are bound to send the same to the authorities within seven days for the purpose of a test or analysis, and then wait for the approval of the board.

The provincial quality control board scrutinises the reports of the inspectors and analysts and issues instructions to the inspectors for the action to be taken on such reports.

The sources said that according to the drugs law the board should hold at least one meeting in 60 days, but mostly the board failed to hold its meetings on time that caused a delay in the approval of cases for trial.

A reasonable number of cases had been submitted in courts for trial during the last few months after a delay of two to three years, they added.

They said that the process of speedy disposal of cases was also disturbed since the drugs inspectors, who had a crucial role in detecting and destroying spurious drugs, appeared to be reluctant to attend the court despite repeated notices and warrants.Another court official said that there were only six drug inspectors for the entire city, which has around 10,000 medical stores and about 130 drugs manufacturing units. Besides, the performance of the drug inspectors was also not up to the mark, while a few cases were being reported despite the fact that a large number of unauthorised suppliers were reportedly selling substandard and fake medicines across the province, he added.

Despite its establishment around 36 years ago, the drug court has still no proper space as it is temporarily housed in a portion of the insurance tribunal’s office on Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road.

No security arrangements were in place for the court while the parking facility was also not available on the premises of the court, said the sources.

The court did not has a bailiff to execute its orders as the drug inspectors usually made an unwanted delay in serving notices or carrying out other directives of the court, they added.

In the absence of a malkhana for the drug court, the drugs inspectors have to take the case properties (recovered drugs) back to their offices after producing them in court.

However, this practice, the sources said, appeared to be detrimental to the cases of the prosecution since it had been witnessed in a number of cases that the case properties were either destroyed or missing.