80pc acquittal recorded in rape cases in Islamabad

Published May 21, 2021
The government has recently promulgated a presidential ordinance to empower all sessions judges to conduct trial of rape offenders. — AP/File
The government has recently promulgated a presidential ordinance to empower all sessions judges to conduct trial of rape offenders. — AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Despite strict legislation and efforts made by the government to curb the menace of rape, pendency of such cases has increased to over 200 in the subordinate judiciary of the federal capital.

Moreover, mainly because of faulty investigation, poor prosecution and out-of-court settlements, about 80pc of sex offenders were acquitted in the decided cases.

The government has recently promulgated a presidential ordinance to empower all sessions judges to conduct trial of rape offenders.

However, at present, only one additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ), Ata Rabbani, is authorised to entertain complaints in rape cases.

The law ministry has forwarded a notification to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that authorised all sessions judges to hear such complaints.

Since January this year, 46 cases have been decided by ADSJ Rabbani.

According to official statistics of the sessions court, in March the court convicted the accused in only one case out of 13 cases it decided. In three cases, the accused were declared proclaimed offenders while accused persons in nine cases were acquitted.

Likewise, in April, accused were acquitted in 13 out of 14 cases. In one case, the court declared the accused person as proclaimed offender since he did not join the investigation.

In April, the accused in eight cases were acquitted even before completion of the trial proceedings. They filed applications under section 256K of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and sought acquittal on the basis of weak evidence. In one case, the court dismissed the complaint since the complainant did not want to prosecute the offender apparently due to an out-of-court settlement.

In May, the court has so far decided three cases and acquitted the suspects in all the cases.

According to the statistics of Islamabad police, over 200 cases of rape and kidnapping were reported in four months this year while during the first quarter of last year total rape incidents registered with Islamabad police were 167.

Judicial sources told Dawn that in most of the cases faulty investigation, lack of proper supervision by senior officials, meager resources for low-paid investigation officers and weak prosecution were the reasons for such a higher percentage of acquittal.

Senior lawyer Syed Nayab Hassan Gardezi said the government had promulgated the anti-rape law but it had to be implemented by relevant stakeholders, including the police.

He said the police discouraged registration of complaints which encouraged the offenders who kept on repeating such a heinous crime without any fear of being punished.

According to him, this is the main reason the actual number of rape cases could not be reported in the police record as only a fraction of such incidents were mentioned in the police record.

Advocate General Islamabad Niazullah Khan Niazi, who also supervised the prosecution since a proper prosecution branch does not exist in the capital, said not only the faulty investigation but non-cooperation of witnesses also weakened the prosecution’s case.

He however expressed the hope that the recently promulgated anti-rape law will strengthen the prosecution and subsequently the conviction rate would also improve.

The law ministry, on the other hand, has sought from the IHC the details of cases that fall within the ambit of the anti-rape law.

These cases will be distributed to the judges who have recently been authorised to conduct trial of rape offenders, an official of the IHC told Dawn.

Last week, the law ministry notified special courts for trials of rape cases.

According to the law ministry, the special courts will include state-of-the-art infrastructure along with special measures including but not limited to audio and video recording and video link facilities.

“A dedicated and gender sensitised courtroom environment for trial of rape and sexual assault cases is now becoming a reality for women and children across Pakistan,” the law ministry said in a statement.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2021

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