ISLAMABAD: Islamabad’s prosecutors have been working on the basis of makeshift arrangements without monetary compensation for five years.

There are currently 14 state prosecutors working in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) who are not paid a salary. Some of them have been working there five years, and others have joined the gratis job in the last couple of years.

These prosecutors have been deployed in the IHC’s seven courts, where they represent the state in criminal cases, including some high profile ones.

One prosecutor remarked that in cases where defence counsel charge millions in legal fees for a single case, the prosecutor does not get paid after a month of work on multiple cases.

This may be one reason that the IHC in May lambasted the criminal justice system for causing agony to litigants. The court went on to say: “We have no hesitation in stating that in the current circumstances this faith [in the criminal justice system] would be totally misguided. Notwithstanding and conceding the weaknesses and shortcomings of the judicial branch, it is dependent on the integrity, quality and professionalism of the other most important stakeholder, i.e. the police, the prison authorities and the prosecution.

“Whether due to corruption, complacency or sheer incompetence and lack of professionalism, the criminal justice system is definitely not serving its purpose; rather it is perpetuating miscarriages of justice and appears to have become a source of grave injustice.”

While observing the “incompetence, outdated and obsolete” investigation techniques and the “lack of probity and professionalism” in a specific murder case, the court added: “Regretfully, this is not an isolated case, but a general pattern observed in most of the cases. It has been observed that, invariably, the investigating officers either appear to be complacent, compromised or totally incompetent.”

The court said: “The low-paid investigating officer does not have sufficient resources to visit the crime scene when a crime is reported, let alone transporting the sealed samples and arranging the payment of the fee to the official laboratory for conducting chemical examinations. It is not a secret that parties, invariably the victims, are asked for money because sufficient official resources for conducting investigations are not available.”

The advocate general Islamabad, who is also working as the prosecutor general of Islamabad, Niazullah Khan Niazi when contacted said that the system is being upgraded for better coordination between the investigation officer and the prosecutor so they can file a well-organised and cohesive charge sheet and submit evidence in a more effective way.

He said that the government has also introduced a bill to set up a prosecution department in Islamabad and strengthen the office of the advocate general.

After the law comes into force, he said, prosecutors will be paid a reasonable salary and efforts are ongoing to compensate prosecutors until they start being paid regularly.

Mr Niazi also claimed that free prosecution work gives junior lawyers the opportunity to learn and work against very senior lawyers at the high court level.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2020