AS a new criminal lawyer navigating the intricacies of the Pakistani legal system, I have encountered glaring inadequacies that demand urgent attention and reforms. One such area of concern revolves around the critical practice of cross-examining the accused, which is a fundamental principle often neglected in our courts.

In theory, it is widely understood that the burden lies with the prosecution to establish guilt beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt. However, the practical application in Pakistani courts often falls short, particularly concerning the cross-examination of the accused.

Moreover, there is a significant loophole at work. Those accused are subjected to cross-examination only if they choose to provide a statement under the oath. As it happens, many opt for total denial because the strategy effectively shields them from scrutiny, and leaves gaping holes in the pursuit of justice.

In fact, this flawed approach has serious repercussions, particularly in cases where those accused assert their innocence. Take, for instance, the plea of alibi, which is a rarely invoked defence that holds the potential to help the innocent. If those accused claim they were not at the scene of the crime, it stands to reason that they must substantiate their whereabouts at the time in question. However, in the absence of a cross-examination, this critical step often remains unexplored, leaving doubts unresolved and justice deferred.

To underscore the gravity of this issue, take, for instance, two chilling examples from murder cases where perpetrators walked free due to the absence of rigorous cross-examination.

In one instance, a married woman conspired with her extramarital partner to murder her husband. Despite overwhelming evidence pointing to their guilt, flaws in the prosecution’s case resulted in acquittal; a verdict that might have been different had the accused individuals faced robust cross-examination.

In another case, a woman was brutally murdered by a person she was meeting clandestinely. The perpetrator, with the aid of an accomplice, disposed of her body in the mountains. Once again, the failure to subject the accused persons to cross-examination allowed them to evade accountability for their heinous crime.

These harrowing examples underscore the urgent need for reforms in our legal system.

By ensuring that the accused individual is subjected to a thorough cross-examination, we can enhance the integrity of the judicial process, uncover the truth, and deliver justice to victims and their families. We should get rid of the loopholes, and uphold the principles of fairness and accountability upon which a legal system should rest.

Atif Ali
Hyderabad

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

First steps
Updated 29 May, 2024

First steps

One hopes that this small change will pave the way for bigger things.
Rafah inferno
29 May, 2024

Rafah inferno

THE level of barbarity witnessed in Sunday’s Israeli air strike targeting a refugee camp in Rafah is shocking even...
On a whim
29 May, 2024

On a whim

THE sudden declaration of May 28 as a public holiday to observe Youm-i-Takbeer — the anniversary of Pakistan’s...
Afghan puzzle
Updated 28 May, 2024

Afghan puzzle

Unless these elements are neutralised, it will not be possible to have the upper hand over terrorist groups.
Attacking minorities
28 May, 2024

Attacking minorities

Mobs turn into executioners due to the authorities’ helplessness before these elements.
Persistent scourge
Updated 29 May, 2024

Persistent scourge

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group...