ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday designated all sessions courts throughout the country as special courts to proceed against accused facing rape charges.
According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice, “in pursuance of the powers conferred by sub-section 3 of section 3 of the Anti-Rape (Investigation & Trial) Ordinance, 2020, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in consultation with the Hon’ble Chief Justice of Pakistan has been pleased to designate all courts of sessions judges throughout Pakistan as Special Courts under the Ordinance”.
According to a statement issued by the law ministry, the special courts have been notified for speedy trial of rape cases.
The development is a stepping stone towards provision of speedy and expeditious justice for victims of rape and sexual offences in a more humane and gender sensitised manner, the statement added.
The special court will include the state-of-the-art infrastructure, audio and video recording and video link facilities.
A dedicated and gender sensitised court room environment for trial of rape and sexual assault cases is now becoming a reality for women and children across Pakistan, it concluded.
In December, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had introduced the anti-rape law. Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet approved the legal measure in November 2020 and President Alvi signed it into law on Dec 15.
It may be recalled that special fast-track courts were proposed to hear rape cases and pronounce a verdict within four months.
Besides taking stringent measure 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.”
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 “the same powers and jurisdiction as the court of Sessions, provided under the Code [of criminal procedure]”.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2021