Criminal justice system reform

Published: January 13, 2018

The road map developed by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government for reforms in the criminal justice system should create wide interest in other provinces not merely because it was crafted as part of fulfilling the National Action Plan but also because it is aimed at strengthening the institutional capacity, infrastructure, human and financial resources of the criminal justice institutions. And since that basically means how the public feels about the ineffectiveness or defects in the criminal justice system or the clamour for justice, it is worthwhile to look at the impact of delays, as well as costs and abuse of powers associated with the administration of justice. On another level, any perceived miscarriage of justice can fuel the militant narrative, which is the reason that NAP also covers these reforms.

Several key changes have been proposed both in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the K-P Police Act of 2017 such as the need for establishing public safety bodies and adopting the standard operating procedures agreed between the police and the prosecution department. The purpose behind it is to guarantee that prosecutors play a proper role in the investigation process. The road map points out lack of clarity, for instance, on whether prosecutors actually play their chosen role in the investigation process, steer it around different stages, or raise issues about the nature and quality of the evidence gathered by the police. But what keeps the criminal justice system dysfunctional in our country is the lack of coordination between institutions — a perennial issue in other spheres of life too. This is due to the existing trust deficit in the competence and integrity of other institutions.

It makes eminent sense to set up a robust accountability mechanism for prosecution, prison and reclamation and probation departments. This is perhaps the only way forward. Together with that we need to think of the tens of thousands of people who crave justice in our country.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2018.

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