Judicial commission made to probe custodial torture

Updated June 30, 2020

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Justice Lal Jan Khattak has been appointed as the single-member commission to conduct inquiry and ascertain the facts and circumstances of the incident. —Photo courtesy PHC website
Justice Lal Jan Khattak has been appointed as the single-member commission to conduct inquiry and ascertain the facts and circumstances of the incident. —Photo courtesy PHC website

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Monday appointed a single-member judicial commission to investigate the stripping and torture of an accused in the custody of Peshawar police.

The appointment of Justice Lal Jan Khattak of the Peshawar High Court was notified by the home department after the Peshawar High Court named him as the presiding officer of the commission.

On Wednesday, the videos of Radiullah alias Amiray’s custodial torture led to a social media outrage and protests across the province.

The notification said, “the provincial government in consultation with the high court’s chief justice had been pleased to appoint Mr Justice Lal Jan Khattak as the single-member commission to conduct inquiry and ascertain the facts and circumstances of the incident of the alleged inhuman and brutal torture of Mr Radiullah by some officers of Peshawar police and making his naked video viral on social media with an immediate effect.”

It will fix responsibility, make recommendations to prevent such incidents

The commission’s terms of reference said it might inquire into and determine root causes and facts of the incidents.

The commission will also fix responsibility for the incident, determine institutional lacunas in the system leading to such incidents, and make recommendations to avert such incidents in future.

The notification said the commission would initiate the inquiry at a place on a date to be fixed by it and share its findings in form of a report to the provincial government preferably within 15 days once the proceedings were so initiated in terms of the notification.

The commission will have powers under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 for summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person including officers/officials and examining them on oath, requiring the discovery of and production of documents, receiving evidence on affidavits, examination of witnesses, documents and requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.

The home department had written to the PHC registrar on Friday, requesting the court to appoint one member judicial commission under Section 3 of the West Pakistan Tribunal of Inquiry Ordinance, 1969, to ascertain the real facts of the incident, fix responsibility and make recommendations to avert such incidents in future.

Sources told Dawn that the city police had arrested former station house officers of Tehkal and Agha Mir Jani police stations in connection with the custodial torture.

The accused held by the Agha Mir Jani police on the charge of possessing drugs was allegedly tortured in the limits of the Tehkal police station.

He was taken into custody after a video showing him curse police officers under the influence of some intoxicant surfaced.

Both officers have been suspended over the torture video.

Sources claimed that both officers had contracted Covid-19 and were admitted to the Police Services Hospital.

Meanwhile, the director of the Provincial Public Safety and Police Complaints Commission (PPS&PCC) has requested the home secretary to set up a committee to remove hurdles to the formation of public oversight bodies meant of police excesses.

A letter addressed to the home secretary said the devolution of powers to the provinces under 18th Constitutional Amendment and KP Police Act, 2017, were meant to make police ‘operationally autonomous and democratically accountable’.

It added that the check and balance system in the Police Act, 2017, which was replicated from the Police Order, 2002, had been made redundant due to the non-operationalisation of the mechanisms provided in that legislation and thus, extending all powers to police without any effective external accountability system.

The letter said the recent incidents including Tehkal custodial torture, the case of retired FC official Fida Mohammad in Yakatoot and alleged suicide or murder of an accused in police lockup in Shangla district had trigged a debate about the accountability of police and efficiency of the public safety mechanism.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020