Model courts ‘silent revolution’ in judicial history

Published: May 22, 2019
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Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. Scale of justice. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Although the success of model courts set up by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa has not been publicised by the media, they are being considered a ‘silent revolution’ in the judicial history wherein murder trials, which remained pending for years, are concluded in a matter of a few days.

A total of 1,577 and 2,496 murder and narcotics cases respectively have been decided by model courts by May 20.

Presently, 110 model courts all over the country are dealing with murder and narcotics cases since April 1. Interestingly, these courts functioned for 33 days only because of lawyers’ strikes and weekends.

The cost of litigation has also decreased because of the expeditious disposal of cases.

Model courts have recorded the statements of 18,302 witnesses. A total of 128 death sentences were handed down and 349 people awarded life imprisonment.

Justice Khosa sets record in deciding criminal cases

Likewise, 961 convicts were awarded other sentences, the collective duration of which is 3,093 years, 11 months and 27 days. Model courts have also imposed fines to the tune of around Rs176 million.

It has been learnt that there is zero pendency of murder and narcotics cases in six districts; therefore there are no model courts functioning there.

There were 116 model courts functioning in April and the number has now come down to 110.

In Islamabad, two model courts have decided 65 murder and 106 narcotics cases. There will be zero pendency of murder cases by July 1 in Model Court Islamabad West, which is presided over by District and Sessions Judge Sohail Nasir, who is also the director general of the Monitoring Cell of Expeditious Justice formed by CJP Khosa.

Legal experts believe that it is major achievement that all murder and narcotics cases will be decided in the federal capital in the next couple of months. Eight convicts have been awarded the death sentence while six handed down life imprisonment.

A total of 677 witnesses testified before the courts. Fines to the tune of almost Rs18 million were imposed.

In Punjab, 36 model courts have decided 463 murder and 1,042 narcotics cases. Likewise, the courts recorded the statements of 8,189 witnesses. A total of 75 death penalty, 127 life imprisonment and 474 other sentences were handed down and fines of Rs71 million imposed.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), 26 model courts concluded trials in 456 murder and 751 narcotics cases while 3,991 witnesses recorded their statements. Ten death penalty, 57 life imprisonment and 311 other sentences were awarded and Rs44 million in fines were imposed.

In Sindh, 401 murder and 308 narcotics cases have been decided by 27 model courts. A total of 3,961 witnesses recorded their statements. Thirty capital punishment, 116 life imprisonment and 39 other sentences were handed down while fines to the tune of over Rs25 million were imposed.

In Balochistan, 19 model courts decided 192 murder and 217 narcotics cases. A total of 1,484 witnesses testified before the courts. Five death penalty, 43 life imprisonment and 103 other sentences were awarded while fines to the tune of Rs17 million were imposed.

A total of 22 murder cases, which were registered in the ongoing year, have been decided in May.  It has also been learnt that a model court in K-P has decided a 40-year-old murder case this month. The case was registered in 1979. Likewise, trial has also been concluded in a 25-year-old murder case in Sindh.  The case was registered in 1994.

Likewise, five 20-year-old murder cases have been concluded and 35 15-year-old cases decided in the ongoing month.

Challenges

Although model courts are performing effectively, they are also facing challenges.

There is criticism of the high acquittal rate. Over 4,000 people have been acquitted by 110 model courts since April 1.  A senior official believes that the acquittal rate is high because of the poor standard of investigation and police’s failure to collect forensic evidence.

It has also been learnt that special courts would be formed in high courts for early decisions on cases adjudicated by model courts.

Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Vice Chairman Amjad Shah told The Express Tribune that the legal community was satisfied with the present functioning of model courts.

Earlier, lawyers had protested against model courts and it was later decided that case scheduling would be carried out with the consent of lawyers concerned.

“The investigation and prosecution should be effective for a higher conviction rate,” the PBC vice chairman said.

He also criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for failing to introduce new legislation to improve the criminal justice system.

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PBC executive member Raheel Kamran Sheikh believes that a mechanism should be put in place to keep a record of the causes of acquittals: whether it was result of (i) defective investigation such as failure to collect incriminating evidence or falsely accusing in the absence of any incriminating evidence (ii) failure of the prosecution to adduce evidence properly or (iii) inconsistencies or lies of the prosecution witnesses.

“Not only will this allow ascribing the responsibility of each segment towards the acquittal rate but also help in developing targeted measures to improve the dispensation of justice”, he added.

On March 20, the Supreme Court declared that the rule “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” (false in one thing, false in everything) would be an integral part of jurisprudence in criminal cases and it would be followed and applied by all courts in the country in its letter and spirit.

The Latin rule holds that a witness who testifies falsely about one matter is not credible to testify about any matter because “the presumption that the witness will declare the truth ceases as soon as it manifestly appears that he is capable of perjury” and that “faith in a witness’s testimony cannot be partial or fractional”. Currently, the country’s courts are following the same principle.

In the 31-page verdict, CJP Khosa also directed that a witness found by court to have resorted to deliberate falsehood on a material aspect “shall, without any latitude, invariably be proceeded against for committing perjury”.

The court noted that the rule “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” had been held by the superior court of this country in the past to be inapplicable to criminal cases which had gradually encouraged and emboldened witnesses appearing in trials of criminal cases to indulge in lies, making it increasingly difficult for courts to discover the truth and dispense justice.

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Reader Comments (1)

  • KAlam
    May 22, 2019 - 10:09AM

    Great initiative indeed, despite resistance from the lawyers community.
    Hats off to CJP.Recommend

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