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Sindh police recommend steps to improve criminal justice system

Updated June 19, 2017

KARACHI: The Sindh police have prepared recommendations for improving the criminal justice system, particularly to control ‘inordinate and shocking delay’ in conclusion of trial caused by a host of factors, including the role of police investigators, prosecution and the court itself, which is considered as one of the major contributory factors behind the pendency of criminal cases, according to officials and documents reviewed by Dawn on Sunday.

These suggestions have been made in compliance with the Supreme Court’s order vis-à-vis ‘criminal appeal No 53 of 2017 out of criminal petition No 1232 of 2016’ in which the apex court had directed all provinces, chief secretaries, AIGs and DIGs of police investigation wings and others to prepare a strategy or policy to improve criminal justice system in the country, said the officials.

Subsequently, the officials said, Sindh IG A.D. Khowaja had directed Sindh Crime Branch AIG Dr Sanaullah Abbasi to analyse the performance of the Sindh police in the criminal justice system. “The analysis carried out by the Crime Branch revealed several trends,” said the officials.

According to it, more than 50 per cent of UTPs (under-trial prisoners) were produced but not examined by courts. Around 54pc of all police witnesses were not examined by the courts and about 40pc of all case properties not exhibited, although these were available with investigating officers and experts.

There was a visible pattern of excess number of production of UTPs, call up of prosecution witnesses and case properties in the court. Despite the cases in which all the said things were available, these were not able to make it through trial because of delay of one reason or another.

As per the police analysis of the criminal justice system, resultantly, this was having “negative effect on independent prosecution witnesses who, already under the pressure of absence from their business/jobs, suffer mental fatigue, get frustrated and lose faith in the whole justice process”.

As a consequence, these witnesses became reluctant either to come up for giving evidence again or their position was ‘compromised’ because of revelation of their identity before the defence/accused.

“Experience has also shown that accused and their relatives try to, by book by crook, win over these witnesses by resiling or by making them hostile,” said the Crime Branch analysis.

Furthermore, such inordinate delay in conclusion of the trial also tended to increase the cost of transportation and providing meals to UTPs brought in the courts, which was also termed an ‘expensive exercise’ because of sheer volume. It has become an “exercise in futility and a non-productive burden on the exchequer”.

In the light of these observations, the Sindh police have made several suggestions to improve the criminal justice system.

The analysis report suggested that the courts should be requested to give priority to cases of heinous nature, crime against persons and terrorism and extremism. Only the manageable number of cases should be put up in the cause list of the courts to reduce the burden on the police, prosecution and prison departments. The day-to-day hearing of the cases should be made mandatory upon the courts.

It has also been recommended that the authority of the prosecutor general be accepted as far as possible in vetting the quality of cases brought by the police before sending them to the courts. “This way a huge saving in terms of human and material resources can be made, which can be better utilised in upgrading facilities available overall in the criminal justice system,” according to the police recommendations.

Data about registered cases, challans

Official sources told Dawn that Sindh Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon had recently held a meeting on the criminal justice system. He was briefed on the data about registered cases, challans and their percentage for four years – 2014 to 2017.

The year-wise challans and pending investigation reports of all ranges of the province showed that from January to April 2017, total 22,142 criminal cases were registered, out of them challans of 13,514 cases were submitted to courts while 8,628 cases were pending, thus percentage of challan cases stood at 61.03pc.

Similarly, from January to December 2016, total 61,108 cases were registered in all ranges of Sindh police, out of them challans of 41,330 cases presented before courts while 19,778 cases were pending, thus percentage of challan cases stood at 67.63pc, according to the police analysis.

The data showed that from January to December 2015, total 67046 cases were registered in all ranges, out of them challans of 31,881 cases produced before courts while 35,165 cases were pending, and the percentage was 47.55pc.

From January to December 2014, total 58,525 cases were registered across the province and the number of challan cases stood at 43,852 while the number of pending cases was 14,673, with the percentage standing at 74.93 pc.

“In view of this statistics, we proposed that just like military courts, cases must be processed through ‘coordination committee’ where all stakeholders participate and all witnesses, case property and advocates should be present to process particular and specific cases without adjournments,” said the Crime Branch AIG while taking to Dawn.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2017