KARACHI: The apparent divide between the ideological conceptions of the populace and the national penal policy has resulted in an underdeveloped political and criminal system, said Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid at the inaugural session of a three-day international conference on Friday. He also stressed the importance of using vernaculars in trials instead of legal jargon.
The event was titled “The Criminal Justice System: Towards a Systematic Approach – Perspectives from Asia and the Pacific” and was organised by the Hamdard School of Law.
The theme of the first session was “Education, media and civil society”. An Indian speaker, Manisha Gupte, who co-founded a Pune-based NGO called Masum, discussed the types of patriarchy in families in her presentation. With regard to system of crime and punishment, she provided specific examples in prisons where women serve twice the number of years as men for the same crime.
Dr Sumaiya Khair, of University of Dhaka, talked about acid attacks in Bangladesh, confirming a distinct gender bias in the commission of this crime. She said that the reasons for committing the crime had increased. “While in the early years, it was an act of vengeance vengeance against women but now it is used to settle money or land disputes.”
Dr Nazrul Islam, also from University of Dhaka, spoke about malpractice in granting bail. He recommended making the punishments for serious laws harsher. “Habitual criminals will be unable to get bail while others will benefit from it,” he said.
The second session “Education, media and civil society” discussed an initiative by Hamdard, called “Street Law Clinics”. The presenters were Omar Maniar and Faiza Haswary, both lecturers at Hamdard, explained that the project involves training senior law students who go and create legal awareness in a target community.
They shared the experiences of 12 twelve law students who trained more than 140 inmates at a juvenile prison on different aspects of the law. A lecturer at the University of Balochistan, Shah Mohammad, highlighted the disparity in education system. He asserted that most serious crimes were committed by people who suffered economic hardship.
Dr Ali Qazilbash, the head of law department at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, explained how the existence of two parallel legal education systems also created a schism between the lawyers produced in the country. While highlighting the need of a unified legal education system, he stressed upon the need for a revision in the law curriculum.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2012.
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