KARACHI: Expressing its dissatisfaction over the standard operating procedure (SOP) adopted by the Sindh police for DNA tests in rape cases, the Sindh High Court on Thursday directed the provincial home secretary and the inspector general of Sindh police to “jot down” a complete mechanism within three days and put it before the court for approval before circulating it to the station house officers and the investigating officers across the province.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, gave these directives to the home secretary and the IGP during the hearing of a petition jointly filed by three rape victims seeking implementation of the Supreme Court’s guidelines in rape cases and the establishment of rape crisis cells at the district level.
During Thursday’s proceedings, IGP Syed Kaleem Imam appeared before the court with other police high-ups. Home Secretary Dr Usman Chachar was also present.
The petitioners’ counsel, Mohamed Vawda, argued that despite the issuance of clear directions by the court its orders had not been implemented as still various cases of DNA test were pending and reports were awaited which have had a bad impact on the trial of rape cases.
Kaleem Imam submitted that they had an SOP for an immediate DNA test with certain directions having been issued to the SHOs and IOs.
Three rape victims have sought implementation of SC guidelines
However, the bench members observed: “We have gone through the SOP but no exact timeframe is mentioned in which the SHOs or IOs are required to forward the sample for DNA test and receiving report without any delay.”
The petitioners’ counsel further argued that so many of the DNA test reports were still awaited due to non-payment of bills of the relevant laboratories.
At this, DIG-Legal Mohammad Habib Khan submitted that the Sindh government had recently entered into an agreement with Karachi University (KU) and another institution for the facility of DNA test and they had made some payment also to them.
But the bench members noted that still no mechanism was placed before them to deal with “the situation as to when the IO will forward the sample and whether the same is directly received by the university or they ask for the payment first or they directly send the bill to the Sindh government.”
The home secretary submitted that some amount had been paid and some amount will be transferred into the escrow account, but the bench members observed that he was not confident about the procedure in which samples were received and bills sent to the Sindh government.
“According to our understanding, in order to enforce the mandatory test of DNA in rape cases smooth mechanism is required to be made out in which IOs or the SHOs should not be burdened for the cost or demand of bill at site, but there must be a mechanism that after collection of the samples a bill should be sent of all such DNA tests to the Sindh government for payment,” the bench wrote in its order.
Therefore, it directed the home secretary, IG Kaleem Imam and the DIG-Legal to convene a meeting within three days and jot down a complete mechanism for the implementation that will be circulated after approval of the court not only to the relevant laboratories but also to all the SHOs and the IOs of the cases for effective implementation of the judgement.
The bench also directed Abdul Razzak, a member of the Inspection Team-II of the SHC, to focus on the next implementation in which the trial courts should fix screen in the rape cases in compliance with the directions of the Supreme Court as well as the SHC.
The bench also asked the MIT-II to contact the sessions judges individually and submit the report whether trial and proceedings in the rape cases were being conducted in compliance with the directions with proper screening.
“We want to see the list of all individual cases pending in individual courts and the reasons for non-compliance by the sessions judges or ATC judges in letter and spirit,” the bench wrote it its order.
“In case any deficiency is found in compliance of the directions of the Supreme Court or this court, the presiding officer of the concerned court would be responsible to face the consequences and they will be bound to appear in person and explain their position,” the court order added.
At this juncture, the IGP submitted that they had some already sanctioned funds for the investigation and if they were allowed, they might pay the DNA test fee. So, he requested that some directions be issued to grant this amount as impress money for consumption in DNA test on an immediate basis.
The bench told the home secretary that this aspect would also be considered in the meeting being convened under the directions of the court. It also directed that the finance secretary attend the meeting.
The bench adjourned the matter till Feb 27, directing the IGP Sindh, DIG Legal, home secretary and MIT-II to also be in attendance.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020