Progress report sought on medico-legal guidelines in rape cases

Published December 14, 2020
During the hearing of a petition seeking abolition of two-finger virginity tests in rape cases, the chief technical officer of the health department submitted that they had sought an academic/technical opinion on the proposed SOPs from professors of forensic medicine of three universities. — File photo
During the hearing of a petition seeking abolition of two-finger virginity tests in rape cases, the chief technical officer of the health department submitted that they had sought an academic/technical opinion on the proposed SOPs from professors of forensic medicine of three universities. — File photo

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has directed the provincial authorities to submit a progress report about finalisation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for medico-legal tests in rape cases.

When a petition seeking abolition of two-finger virginity tests in rape cases came up for hearing before a two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, the chief technical officer of the health department submitted that they had sought an academic/technical opinion on the proposed SOPs from professors of forensic medicine of three universities.

He further submitted that the opinion from one professor of the Jinnah Sindh Medical University had been received and responses of others were still awaited. He sought time to submit a progress report.

The head of the medico-legal reforms committee also filed para-wise comments in court suggesting that women medico-legal officers (MLOs) should be made to sit at their workplace rather than staying at home and being called for cases as this might destroy relevant evidence and findings and the officer in charge should be held responsible if such a situation arises.

In the last hearing, the bench had directed the health department to facilitate a recently constituted 15-member medico-legal reforms committee to hold its meeting to finalise the SOPs.

It had also asked the committee to examine the working paper/proposal and propose changes, if any, after the chairman of the committee informed the bench that an earlier committee had also submitted detailed proposals for improvising the existing medico-legal system.

The bench was informed that on Oct 19 the medico-legal reforms committee was constituted by the health department and it was being headed by the chairman of the JSMU’s forensic department, Prof Dr Farhat Hussain Mirza.

Natasha Ali and other petitioners approached the SHC stating that MLOs were performing hymen and two-finger tests as part of the medical evaluation of sexual assault victims.

They maintained that such tests and standards were unreliable, unnecessary and without any scientific basis and defied the constitutional liberties vesting in and with all citizens, including victims of sexual assault.

They asked the SHC to issue directives to the home and health departments to end two-finger tests in rape cases, ensure implementation of DNA tests and the SOPs germane to good medical practice as regards medical examinations, investigations and criminal prosecution of allegations in sexual assault cases.

Reply sought on islands’ issue

The same bench has directed a federal law officer to file a reply by Jan 15 over a reported memorandum of understanding signed by the Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) with a foreign firm to set up a waste energy and desalination plant at one of the two islands in the coastal waters of Karachi.

When a set of petitions challenging the recently promulgated PIDA Ordinance came up for hearing, the counsel for one of the petitioners argued that on Oct 23, the attorney general had made a clear statement before the bench that no development work on the two islands would commence without collaboration and cooperation of the Sindh government.

However, he contended that an MoU was reportedly signed between “Amsterdam Waste Environmental Consultancy & Technology” and PIDA to establish a waste energy and desalination plant at Bundal Island.

Acting Attorney General Kashif Paracha submitted that there was no violation of the statement given by the AG. However, he requested for time to seek proper instruction and file a reply.

The petitioners had challenged the ordinance and submitted that object of the impugned ordinance was reportedly to establish an authority for offshore islands of Sindh and Balochistan and particularly Bundal and Buddo islands along the Karachi coast.

SHC warns against delay in officials’ promotions

The SHC has warned the provincial authorities against delaying promotions of government servants.

The two-judge headed by Jus­tice Nadeem Akhtar also direc­ted the provincial government to provide complete details of performance evaluation reports (PERs) and annual confidential reports (ACRs) of the officers concerned to the departmental promotion committee (DPC) and provincial section board before their meeting for consideration so that such cases should be decided without any delay.

While disposing of a petition of a government official against the DPC, the bench directed the Sindh chief secretary and the secretaries of all the departments to comply with its order.

It warned that if promotion of any civil servant was deferred or delayed in the future for want of PERs and ACRs, the secretary of the department would be held responsible for it.

Dues of former employees of PSM

The same bench has directed the SHC nazir to ensure that the entire amount of Rs23.121 billion, deposited by the Pakistan Steel Mills, was utilised for settling the claims of post-retirement benefits of retired employees of the PSM and to complete the exercise expeditiously.

Hundreds of retired employees of the PSM had petitioned the SHC for not being paid their gratuity, leave encashment and provident funds since 2013.

Thereafter, the bench had issued several orders directing the federal authorities concerned and the PSM to release the amount in order to settle the post-retirement dues of all the retired employees.

Subsequently, the finance division had released the amount in two instalments and the PSM deposited the same with the nazir for payment to the retired employees after proper verification.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2020

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