KARACHI: The conviction rate in three provincial anti-corruption courts remained zero in the nine months of the current year, as only the fourth one convicted accused persons and that too in only eight corruption-related cases, it emerged on Wednesday.
The collective data obtained by Dawn suggested that the overall conviction rate stood at 14.04pc as the accused persons in 85.96pc cases were acquitted.
Out of the 114 disposed of cases, accused persons were acquitted in 106 cases by the four special provincial anti-graft courts and convicted in eight cases only.
Around 1,425 graft cases were pending trial before the four provincial special anti-corruption courts — one each in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Larkana — till Sept 30.
Karachi’s anti-corruption court disposed of 57 cases — 49 acquittals and eight convictions — from Jan 1 to Sept 30.
The four provincial anti-corruption courts had a backlog of 1,425 pending cases after disposal of 114
The acquittal rate stood at 85.96pc and conviction 14.04pc. The court had a backlog of 106 pending cases.
Hyderabad’s anti-corruption court decided only three cases and acquitted the accused persons in all cases. With a 100pc acquittal rate, the court had the backlog of 761 pending cases.
Sukkur’s anti-corruption court decided 27 cases, wherein all the accused persons were acquitted as the prosecution failed to prove the allegations against them.
With a 100pc acquittal rate, the court had a backlog of 477 pending cases.
Similarly, Larkana’s anti-corruption court decided 27 cases and acquitted all the accused persons for lack of evidence against them. Eighty-one cases were pending trial.
The statistics showed that the provincial Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) had received around 2,590 corruption-related applications from Jan 1 to Aug 31. It registered 93 FIRs about corrupt practices in the nine zones across the province in the eight months in addition to 97 old FIRs.
Of the total of 190, 151 FIRs were finalised while the fate of 39 remaining was still not decided, revealed the figures.
The statistics further showed that 1,065 inquiries were initiated in addition to 2,766 old ones. Of the total 3,831, 2,205 inquiries were finalised and 1,629 remained undecided.
The ACE claimed to have detained 46 suspects this year and submitted charge sheets in 1,469 cases (1,356 old and 113 new) before the trial courts.
However, the figures revealed that only 11 absconding suspects were tracked down in the nine months as 523 were still at large.
Low conviction rate
Responding to Dawn’s queries, the additional director (legal) of the ACE Sindh, Rizwan Ahmed Tirmizi, said complainants in most of the trials against the officers/officials of the police and revenue departments of the provincial and local governments were the main reason for the low conviction rate, as the complainants in a majority of cases deviated from their initial statements before the courts.
“We are no longer entertaining applications related to these departments and agencies,” he said, adding that now the ACE Sindh was working on selected cases, particularly those instituted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), that would improve the ratio of conviction.
However, the provincial anti-graft watchdog’s legal head deplored that at times NAB took over the cases in which the ACE had already initiated inquiries. “Around five to six good cases have been taken over by NAB,” said Mr Tirmizi.
Commenting on the conviction rate in the cases prosecuted by the federal anti-graft watchdog, Mr Tirmizi said: “The conviction rate in the cases of the National Accountability Bureau appears to be higher because they even counted the cases of plea bargain as conviction”.
Secondly, he complained that the ACE was short-staffed as it was being manned by 550 officers and officials against the sanctioned strength of over 1,300. He said the vacant posts could not be filled because of a restraining order against fresh appointments issued by the Sindh High Court in 2015.
However, the statistics suggested that the provincial anti-corruption watchdog had failed to show any outstanding performance in the last few years.
Figures of previous years
The ACE had arrested 81 persons in 2017.
A total of 367 FIRs (249 old and 174 new) and 1,274 inquiries (3,123 old and 1,126 new) had been finalised. Charge sheets in 1,579 cases were filed before the anti-corruption courts.
The four courts convicted the accused persons in only 26 and acquitted in 182 cases. By the end of the year, 1,371 cases were pending trial.
It further showed that 66 absconding suspects were tracked down while 504 were still at large.
The ACE had claimed to have arrested 210 accused persons in 2016.
Around 175 FIRs were finalised and charge sheets in 259 cases were submitted before the courts. However, the accused in only 12 cases were convicted and those in 192 cases were acquitted.
Around 1,345 cases were pending trial before the four courts by the end of year while 508 absconders were also at large.
The ACE had claimed to have arrested 122 accused persons in year 2015.
Around 264 FIRs were finalised and charge sheets in 180 cases were submitted before the courts. However, the accused were convicted only in 21 of the cases.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018