KARACHI: With a conviction rate of nearly 33 per cent, the antiterrorism courts (ATCs) in Sindh have disposed of 677 cases during the first half of the year while over 3,300 cases are still pending as the overburdened ATCs are unable to decide them within the stipulated period, it emerged on Sunday.

The statistics of 19 ATCs show that of the 677 cases disposed of between January and June 2015, accused were exonerated in 454 cases and convicted in 223 cases with the conviction rate of 32.9 per cent.

The province has 19 ATCs, including 10 in Karachi and one each in Hyderabad, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Khairpur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Shikarpur and Kashmore/Kandhkot.

The ATCs of Karachi have decided 414 cases, including 143 convictions while other nine ATCs have disposed of 263 cases with 80 convictions during the said period and the rate of conviction remained at 34.5 and 30.4pc, respectively.

The figures further show that a total of 3,337 cases are still pending before the ATCs of Sindh, 2,424 cases are waiting to be decided in 10 ATCs of the provincial metropolis while 913 cases are pending before nine other antiterrorism courts of the province.

It shows that the ATC-I disposed of 50 cases with 25 convictions, ATC-II 77 cases with 19 convictions, ATC-III 33 cases with five convictions, ATC-IV 30 cases with 11 convictions, ATC-V 47 cases with 22 convictions, ATC-VI 23 cases with nine conviction, ATC-VII 28 cases with three convictions, ATC-VIII 55 cases with 22 convictions, ATC-IX 38 cases with 16 convictions and ATC-X decided 33 cases with 11 convictions.

The ATC Hyderabad decided 70 cases, including seven convictions, ATC Badin 43 cases with 20 convictions, ATC Mirpurkhas six cases with three convictions, ATC Shaheed Benazirabad 20 cases with one conviction, ATC Khairpur 29 cases with 20 convictions, ATC Sukkur 25 cases with six convictions, ATC Larkana 33 cases with 11 convictions, ATC Shikarpur 16 cases with nine convictions and ATC Kashmore/Kandhkot disposed of 21 cases with three convictions.

The antiterrorism courts (ATCs) were established under the Anti Terrorism Act, 1997 for speedy trial of cases pertaining to terrorism, sectarian and targeting killing, extortion and kidnapping for ransom.

According to Section 19 (7) of the ATA, the court shall, on taking cognisance of a case, proceed with the trial on a day-to-day basis and shall decide it within seven days, failing which an application may be made to the administrative judge of the high court concerned for appropriate directions for an expeditious disposal of the case.

Similarly, it is mentioned in Section 13 (2) of the ATA that one case at a time shall be assigned to a court. To save time, if for some reason a given case cannot proceed, more than one case may be assigned to it.

However, a big backlog of cases is one of the main reasons behind the inordinate delay in their disposal as the overburdened ATCs are unable to decide the cases within the stipulated period as mentioned in the ATA. Some decade-old cases are also in the list of cases pending disposal.

Moreover, the statistics said that the number of pending cases on June 30 were ATC-I 208, ATC-II 417, ATC-III 300, ATC-IV 213, ATC-V 199, ATC-VI 217, ATC-VII 219, ATC-VIII 198, ATC-IX 248 and ATC-X 205.

Similarly, 169 cases still pending disposal at ATC Hyderabad, 85 Badin, 18 Mirpurkhas, 24 Shaheed Benazirabad, 239 Khairpur, 168 Sukkar, 35 Larkana, 141 Shikarpur and 34 cases are waiting to be decided at the ATC Kashmore/Kandhkot.

Consequently, such a huge backlog of cases left the court staff with no option but to fix at least 10 to 15 cases for hearing daily and it’s almost impossible to hear cases on day-to-day basis.

Legal experts blamed defective investigations and a lack of protection to witnesses for low conviction rate and urged the authorities to arrange a proper training for investigating officers.

They suggested that more ATCs should be set up to clear the huge backlog of cases in the provincial metropolis since the number of pending cases are sharply increasing due to ongoing targeted operation in Karachi while court are also overburdened since the police use to foist a number of connected cases such as police encounter, illicit weapons and explosive substances into main cases.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2015

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