ISLAMABAD: Establishment of special courts to conduct fast-track trials in rape cases as provided in the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance 2020 has been delayed.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government in December last year introduced the anti-rape law. Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet approved the legal measure in Nov 2020 and President Arif Alvi signed it into law on Dec 15.
Special fast-track courts were proposed to hear rape cases and were supposed to pronounce a verdict within four months.
Besides stringent measures to curb the menace, Section 3 of the ordinance provides: “The President, in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, shall establish as many Special Courts throughout the country, as he may deem necessary, to try the scheduled offences… The President, in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, shall appoint any person as a Judge of the Special Court, who is or has been a Sessions Judge or Additional Sessions Judge, or has been an advocate of the High Court for a period of not less than ten years, and is not more than seventy years of age at the time of appointment.”
Judges to be appointed to these courts have been identified
Moreover, “the President may, in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, designate, throughout the country, as many Courts of Sessions Judges or Additional Sessions Judges as Special Courts, as he may deem fit.”
The law provides the judges with “the same powers and jurisdiction as the court of Sessions, provided under the Code [of criminal procedure].”
As per the law, “A Judge of the Special Court shall be appointed for a period of three (3) years on such terms and conditions as may be determined by the President… Judge of a Special Court shall only be removable before the expiry of his tenure if he is found guilty of misconduct”.
Though, the law ministry has taken certain steps, including creation of anti-rape crisis cell and allocating beds for the victims at hospitals, the establishment of the special courts and empowering existing judges to conduct trials in rape cases have not been done so far.
Sources in the law ministry said that the mandatory consultation between President Alvi and Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed had been completed.
The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan has also circulated the necessary information among the four provincial high courts and the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Sources said that the high courts last week had given consent to the proposal and identified the district and sessions judges and additional district and sessions judges to be designated as the judges to conduct rape trials.
Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021