LAHORE: Lahore police have launched the investigation into ‘279 unnatural deaths of year 2020’ to review and start criminal proceedings in case of irrefutable evidence of cognizable offence.
In what appears to be a first initiative of its kind, the police have shifted the pending inquiries into 279 unnatural deaths from operations wing to the investigation.
A directive was issued by the capital city police officer (CCPO) to inquire into suicides, accidental, unnatural and suspicious deaths on recommendations of the DIGs of both the wings of police.
Last year, 279 people had died under such circumstances in Lahore district in which inquiries were initiated by the station house officers (SHOs). The bodies were seized by the operations wing for inquiries under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
Under the new move, such inquiries shall be converted into the first information reports (FIRs) under murder offences/charges following forensic and scientific tests so that cause of death could be ascertained and any suspicion of murder could be ruled out.
A senior police officer told Dawn the move had been made to ascertain whether 279 people had died as a result of suicide, accident or murder. In many cases of suicide or accident, the families of the deceased had raised suspicions of murder, he said.
“In case of unnatural death, the circumstances (cause) need to be explained and examined to meet justice,” he argued.
The official record, available with Dawn, shows that of the 279 unnatural deaths last year, 251 were of the males, 23 of females and five were of children.
According to the division-wise data, out of the total 279 bodies recovered from Lahore, 126 were found from City Division, namely 124 of male and two of women.
The Cantt Division recovered 11 bodies, namely four of male, six of female and one of a child. Out of total 38 bodies recovered from the Civil Lines Division, 37 were males and one female.
The Saddar Division seized a total of 52 bodies, namely 45 of male, six of female and one of a child.
Out of 16 bodies recovered from the Iqbal Town Division, 14 were male while two were female . The Model Town Division recovered 36 bodies, namely 27 male, six female and three bodies of the children.
A police experts’ team carried out a detailed analysis of the legal and administrative aspects of this long-neglected issue under the supervision of Lahore Operations DIG Ashfaq Ahmad Khan.
The officer said the team took a principled stand that the proceedings under section 176 CrPC (1898), as and when required, shall be processed by the in-charge investigation/investigation staff of the Lahore police in the future.
Consequently, inquiries into 279 unnatural deaths were referred to investigation wing from the operations wing on the recommendations of DIGs of both the wings in a meeting on Dec 30, 2020.
The SHOs have been directed to refer in the future all such death inquiries to investigation in-charge who would ascertain the cause of death by obtaining evidences, fresh DNA tests and postpartum reports.
“In order to streamline and improve the quality of investigations for better service delivery, it is hereby ordered that in circumstances where an SHO of a police station decides to proceed as per provisions of section 174 of Cr.PC, proceedings and such inquiries shall immediately be referred to the incharge investigation of concerned police station (sic),” reads the official directive.
It said the in-charge investigation shall be duty-bound to complete all medicolegal formalities, collection of evidence, commission of manual registers/POLCOM (police station record management system) and final submission of such report to the courts.
“If Incharge investigation observed at any stage of such inquiry that reasonable evidences were available for cognizable offence, he/she shall refer the matter to the concerned station house officer (SHO) for registration of FIR and legal proceedings under section 154 of Cr.PC (sic),” reads the directive.
Subsequently, after registration of an FIR such probe shall be completed by the investigation wing.
“If a person dies due to unnatural circumstances, the state is burdened to identify the cause of death and take appropriate steps to punish the guilty (if any),” said the officer.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2021