• Over 18,000 criminal cases pending
• 80pc acquittal rate in rape cases due poor investigation, out-of-court settlements
• 661 convicts acquitted by higher courts due to flawed prosecution, archaic laws
ISLAMABAD: The pendency of criminal cases in the federal capital has exceeded 18,000, with a majority of the suspects going scot-free as a result of archaic laws, weak prosecution, and flawed investigation.
According to court statistics, currently, 9,369 criminal cases are pending with the Sessions Division (West) of Islamabad whereas the total pendency of Sessions Division East is 8,660. The total number of pending cases in Islamabad is 18,029.
The sessions courts convicted suspects in 1143 cases during the current year; however, in 661 cases the convicts got acquitted through appellate forums, mainly because the prosecution in the trial courts was weak.
However, the acquittal in rape cases is alarming. In over 80 per cent of cases, suspects evaded punishment due to flawed investigation, weak prosecution, and out-of-court settlements.
Legal experts believe that a large number of suspects in pending cases would also benefit due to the centuries-old laws on which the investigation agencies, prosecution, and courts have to rely. The Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court (IHC) have consistently pointed out the prosecution’s failure, even in high-profile cases.
IHC Justice Aamer Farooq in a recent case related to the extradition of a Pakistani citizen to the UK once again highlighted the government’s inability to improve the criminal justice system.
In July this year, Justice Farooq while disposing of the petition of former prime minister Imran Khan seeking his trial through video link observed that the “criminal justice system is in dire need of re-engineering its processes, optimising the use of human resources, and bringing about the changes in the law to utilise the information and communications technology to its maximum”.
The high court decision suggested that “the changes in law and the rules with said purpose in mind will and can revolutionise the justice system and improve not only the quality of judgments but also the quantity and will enable the courts in the expeditious dispensation of justice”.
It observed the use of “modern technologies for dispensation of justice is being put to use in various judicial systems, especially in the West and also has seen progress in leaps and bounds across the border where laws are quite similar to ours”.
The judgement hinted at the arbitration through virtual courts saying that the “future lies in the adoption of modern information and communications technologies, rather in days to come artificial intelligence can and would bypass human resources as well”.
The court was of the view that the criminal procedure code (CrPC) was framed almost 140 years ago and the legislature failed to update the law keeping in view the advancement in technology.
In addition to the outdated law, criminals in the capital taking advantage of improper prosecution.
Owing to the consistent observations of the superior judiciary about weak prosecution, the government recently started the appointment of prosecutors through the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). However, the previous practice of induction in the prosecution without advertising the post is still underway.
According to Prosecutor General of the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) Raja Inam Ameen Minhas, the litigants are losing faith in the criminal justice system not only because of weaknesses and shortcomings of the judicial branch but also due to flawed investigation and weak prosecution.
He suggested amendments in the relevant statutes for setting up a proper prosecution department in Islamabad, coordination between the investigation and forensic teams, introduction of modern technology in criminal trials, and capacity building of the judicial officers.
Legal experts believe that in addition to modern technology, drastic changes are also required in Qanoon e Shahadat to improve the conviction rate. According to them, the standard of evidence as per existing laws in Pakistan is at par with the most advanced and developed countries, but the quality of investigation and prosecution are still subpar.
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2023