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SC issues guidelines for identification parades by judicial officers

Updated February 23, 2019

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SC bench headed by CJP Asif Saeed Khosa cautions that strict notice would be taken against judicial officers who defy court order. — Supreme Court of Pakistan website/File
SC bench headed by CJP Asif Saeed Khosa cautions that strict notice would be taken against judicial officers who defy court order. — Supreme Court of Pakistan website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday issued guidelines on how to conduct identification parades by judicial officers, but held that relying solely on such parades for the identity of accused in criminal cases was not enough.

The guidelines were issued by a two-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, which had summoned a senior judicial officer for showing casual attitude by not following legal procedures in holding identity parade in a murder case.

The apex court ordered dispatching of its Friday order to the registrars of all high courts who would send the order to all judicial magistrates holding trial in criminal cases. The bench court also cautioned that strict notice would be taken against those judicial officers who were non-observant or defied the court order.

Former special judicial magistrate of Lahore’s Model Town Kanwar Anwaar Ali, who is currently serving as Deputy Secretary for Planning and Development, had been asked on Feb 12 to appear in person before the apex court. The court was then hearing an appeal of Asfandyar Khan, a murder suspect, and noted that proper identification parade had not been carried out in the case. Consequently, the court had acquitted the accused of all charges, after a decade.

Discharges notice against magistrate who did not follow legal procedures in a murder case

Asfandyar was awarded capital sentence by an antiterrorism court in 2009, but the Lahore High Court commuted the sentence to life term. He was held guilty of killing Adil Butt, a student. According to the prosecution, Asfandyar kidnapped the student for ransom but killed him after the victim’s family failed to pay the ransom money.

Kanwar Anwaar appeared before the SC bench on Friday and furnished a reply, requesting the court not to punish him as it may jeopardise his career as a civil servant and affect lives of his innocent children and dependents. He conceded that he was a Provincial Management Service officer (BS-17) on May 15, 2006 and that his academic qualification at the time of induction was simple graduation.

He said he had received training at the Management and Professional Development Department (MPDD), the government of Punjab, in a 32-week course on administration and development. He said that except for a few orientation lectures on CPC, PPC, CrPC and constitutional law, no extensive legal education or training was being imparted by the MPDD after the abolition of Executive Magistracy, though main focus was and still is on planning and development, public administration, public policy, management and revenue.

Mr Anwaar explained that after three years of government service as Tehsil Municipal Officer in Okara, he was transferred by the S&GAD on Aug 18, 2009 after concurrence of the Lahore High Court and posted as the special judicial magistrate at the Model Town courts, Lahore, against one of the vacant posts.

He contended that since he was not a law graduate yet, he served there as the special judicial magistrate in the district judiciary from September 2009 to October 2012 in the absence of any institutional set-up and formal legal training arrangement or practical demonstrations pertaining to assignments like test identification parades, raids, inquests and exhumations.

The only opportunity available was day-to-day on-job learning or study of case laws of the superior judiciary and commentaries, he said in the reply, adding that for a non-law graduate like him, there was no institutional arrangement for capacity building. It was the 10th day of his duty as special judicial magistrate when he conducted his maiden test identification parade in the subject case, he explained, adding that he had given bare reading of instructions on the subject contained in Volume-II of the High Court Rules and Orders and Police Rules 1934.

During the conduct of the identification parade, he used commonsensical learning that he had gathered from reading of bare instructions, pattern and guidance of his colleagues in the judiciary, the reply stated.

“In my humble understanding, a joint identification parade meant a parade in which more than one accused had been made to stand in a single row with many other dummies for identification by a witness. Therefore, I took care not to mix more than one accused person with nine almost identical dummies in a separate row,” the reply said, adding that each row was separately presented before a witness for identification.

Mr Anwaar said he had conducted the identification proceedings in good faith as a judicial officer to the best of his abilities and knowledge without any mala fide intention.

The court accepted his explanation and discharged the notice against him, but clarified that the identification parade was conducted under the police rules and had nothing to do with the CrPC or PPC.

The chief justice observed that it was necessary that a person who was identified as accused by a witness should be cross-examined before the court and extra care should be taken while conducting a parade.

“The Supreme Court has already handed down 16 different judgements from 1974 to 2018, explaining procedures for conducting identification parades in which it has highlighted that it is not proper to conduct such parade by standing the accused in a row of different dummies,” the chief justice observed. Identification of suspects should be done separately, he said, adding that safeguard of the accused as well as the witnesses should also be ensured during the identification parade.

Likewise, the chief justice said, it was also dangerous to identify the accused before a trial court by witnesses, adding that the fate of a criminal case should not only rest on the outcome of the identification parade.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2019