‘Grave wrong undone’: Law to give respite to under trial prisoners

Zardari signs into law a bill that entitles under-trial prisoners to statutory bail.

Sumera Khan April 18, 2011


Terming it ‘undoing a grave wrong’, President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday signed a Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) bill 2011 in order to create a law that seeks to grant statutory bail to under-trial prisoners

The Bill was signed into law on Monday at a special ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sadr.

Briefing the media about the new law, spokesperson to the president Farhatullah Babar said that an under-trial prisoner is entitled to statutory bail if he has been charged with any offence not punishable with death and has been detained for one year. In case of an offence punishable with death, the accused is liable to statutory bail if his trial has not been concluded in two years.

Babar said that those convicts whose appeals are pending will also be entitled to the statutory bail, if their term of imprisonment has not exceeded three years and the appeal has not been decided within 6 months of their conviction.

He added that in case of imprisonment exceeding three years but less than seven years, the convict will also be entitled to statutory bail if the appeal remains undecided a year after conviction.

Convicts sentenced to life imprisonment or imprisonment for more than seven years will be entitled to bail if their appeal remains undecided two years after conviction, Babar said.

He said that the law envisaged special concessions to under-trial woman prisoners. The time-frame specified for under-trial woman prisoners for the eligibility to statutory bail is half the time-frame for male convicts, he said.

A woman under-trial prisoner will, thus, be entitled to statutory bail if she is accused of any offence not punishable with death and has been detained for over six months.

In case of an offence punishable with death the accused woman prisoner shall be liable to statutory bail if her trial has not been concluded in one year instead of two years as in the case of male under trial prisoners, he said.

Babar added that these concessions, however, will not be allowed for previously convicted offenders for an offence punishable with death or life imprisonment.

Hence, no person will be kept in jail indefinitely due to either a delay in the commencement of the trial or the disposal of their appeals.

The spokesperson further explained that the process of amendments was initiated in 2008 after the PPP government was installed in office.

The then Law Minister Farooq Naek, now Chairman Senate, was tasked by President Zardari to propose suitable amendments in light of the party manifesto, the universal practice and consistent with the principles of basic human rights.

Babar added that Naek was tasked to restore the law as it existed before it was changed in mid 90s “only to hound and torture Zardai and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto”.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th,  2011.


Mehreen Bhatti | 10 years ago | Reply President Asif Zardari’s decision to sign an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code that will give prisoners the opportunity to seek bail if their cases are not adjudicated within a certain time frame should be warmly welcomed. Critics of this amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code will point out that it could lead to many guilty people being freed before the courts have a chance to rule on their cases. This criticism is without merit. Rather, this amendment should be viewed as the government throwing down the gauntlet to the judiciary and telling it that speediness is an essential part of justice. It is now up to the judiciary to hear and rule on cases in an efficient manner. If it fails to do so, the fault will lie with the courts, and not the government, that possibly guilty prisoners can seek bail. To complement this law, the courts now need more judges, magistrates and prosecuting officers to allow them to adjudicate all cases in a timely manner. The amendment also tackles an oft-neglected human rights issue — that of overcrowded prisons. Even convicted prisoners have basic rights and prisons that are teeming with people deny them those rights. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that Pakistan has a prison capacity of about 35,000 while the number of prisoners is close to 79,000. This new amendment should help narrow that gap.
Jeddy | 10 years ago | Reply What about setting free those people who have been detained indefinitely in prisons without being charged of any crime and have thereby not been brought to trial. Police should not be allowed to arrest anyone without a proper warrant for the arrest and should not be allowed to detain anyone for more than 12 hours, unless there is some evidence. Within 12 hours the person taken to court for trial. At present the system says a person is guilty till he is proven innocent - instead of innocent till proven guilty.
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