Police autonomy as important as independence of judiciary: CJP

Updated October 04, 2019

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Letter on behalf of CJP asks govt to adhere to SC's relevant verdict before taking any steps regarding police reforms. — AFP/File
Letter on behalf of CJP asks govt to adhere to SC's relevant verdict before taking any steps regarding police reforms. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa has emphasised the need for ensuring administrative autonomy of police and said the issue is as important as the independence of judiciary.

The observation was conveyed to the law and interior secretaries on Thursday in a letter written by Secretary of the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) Dr Muhammad Raheem Awan on behalf of the chief justice.

The letter asked the government officials to strictly adhere to the Supreme Court’s verdict of Jan 21 before taking any steps regarding police reforms.

Letter asks government officials to adhere to the Supreme Court’s relevant verdict before taking any steps regarding police reforms

In the judgement, which was given on an appeal against a Sindh High Court verdict, the apex court held that transfers and postings on all senior cadre posts of the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) should be made through orders of the inspector general of police (IGP) under transparent rules framed in line with Section 12 of the Police Act, 1861.

The judgement also said that for securing integrity, competence, diligence and accountability in performance of police, the federal government might consider framing a law to set uniform criteria for appointments to senior cadre posts, senior officers’ independence of operation, security of tenure, performance assessment and accountability.

The verdict also asked the federal and provincial governments to collaborate in matters of appointment and transfer of personnel to senior cadre posts. They are already expected to do so with respect to crime prevention, detection and investigation as well as prosecution and punishment of criminal offenders.

The judgement held that police were concurrently subject to the legislative and executive competence of the federation and the provinces in relation to matters covered by Articles 142(b) and 240 of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the letter written by the LJCP secretary noted that data from Police Complaint Redressal Centres showed public confidence in police. The centres have reduced the unnecessary burden of thousands of cases on the judiciary and the general public has emerged as the ultimate beneficiary of the new system.

Former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had constituted the Police Reforms Committee (PRC) on May 15 last year that comprised reputable retired and serving IGPs.

The PRC was asked to come up with recommendations for addressing major professional matters of police, especially flaws in investigation and accountability of personnel.

The committee’s terms of reference included matters such as model police law, police accountability, improving quality of investigation, alternative dispute resolution (ADR), urban policing, combating terrorism within the criminal justice system, and legislative reforms.

The PRC held several meetings and furnished the first volume of its report, relating to model police law, in Aug last year. The volume contained specific proposals pertaining to investigation, police accountability, ADR and urban policing.

The committee submitted second volume of its report relating to accountability, operational matters and legislative reforms in September last year.

The PRC’s report titled ‘Police Reforms: Way Forward’ was formally launched on Jan 14 by former chief justice Nisar. The incumbent chief justice had also highlighted the steps taken and implemented by the PRC in the last judicial year.

Chief Justice Khosa while presiding over a meeting of the PRC on Sept 23 had highlighted its future plans by saying the National Police Bureau (NPB) should devise a uniform strategy across the country regarding correct narration of the FIR, unnecessary arrest and false evidence so that misuse and abuse of the process for registration of criminal cases could be discouraged.

It was unanimously decided during the last meeting that the committee would consider the important issues as a next step for successfully achieving the goal of police reforms in the country. But in the meantime the NPB, with the consultation of all IGPs, would prepare a proposal on these issues for sharing with the committee.

During the meeting, the chief justice had also expressed concern over the alarming rate of acquittals in murder cases due to flaws in police investigations.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2019