KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has issued notices to the Sindh government, the provincial home secretary, Sindh Police inspector general (IGP), Sindh prisons inspector general (IG) and other relevant officials, over pleas pertaining to delays in the case proceedings and bails of under-trial prisoners.
A two-member bench of SHC, comprising Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan, issued the notices on Friday, while hearing the pleas filed by The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research, social activist Jibran Nasir and others.
During the hearing, the petitioners' counsel moved the court to seek a report about prisoners who have served jail sentences that exceed the required duration of imprisonment for the offence they have committed. He also requested that a commission be constituted to survey the accommodation and facilities provided to the prisoners. He said that a transparent trial is the right of every citizen and appealed to the court to expedite proceedings of cases involving under-trial prisoners.
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The counsel strengthened his arguments by citing details from a report issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
According to an HRCP report, 25 prisons in Sindh house inmates beyond their capacities, he said. The report states that 6,006 prisoners have been kept at Karachi Central Jail, against its capacity of 2,400 inmates, while Malir District Jail houses 3,483 prisoners against its capacity of accommodating 1,591 inmates, the counsel quoted. He further said that the report mentions that only three doctors have been appointed for the inmates in Karachi, which is not enough.
The HRCP report says that total 1,955 women and 1,225 children are living in abysmal conditions in jails across Pakistan, the petitioners' counsel said, adding that it has been pointed out in the report that 11 prisons in Balochistan are facing water shortage and 71 prisoners in Balochistan and another 50 in Sindh suffer from AIDS. The provision of facilities to the prisoners is not possible due to a large number of inmates, he cited the report.
According to the report, there have been instances in the past where prisoners died before the verdict on their cases was announced, the counsel informed the court. He said that it has also been highlighted in the report that 91% under-trial prisoners in Pakistan are unaware of allegations levelled against and 36% of them cannot afford a lawyer.
The court has sought replies over the pleas from the parties and has issued notices to the provincial government and relevant officials including Sindh home secretary, Sindh IGP and Prisons IG.
Illegal land allotment
Meanwhile, another bench of SHC, headed by Justice Ahmed Ali Shaikh and comprising Justice Omar Sial, ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to complete inquiry against the accused involved in the illegal allotment of Sindh Forest Department's land and felling within four weeks.
The accused against whom NAB has launched inquiries include Forest Department officials, Mehmood Raza and Ghulam Mustafa, and others.
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Expressing annoyance over the misdeeds, the court remarked that forests in Sindh have been ruined as a result of forest department officials' conspiracy. It remarked that trees which have been felled were assets. The court mentioned that notification detailing the amount of land reserved for forests in Sindh at the time of Pakistan's independence has also been perused.
According to NAB, in 2017, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)- led federal government had announced to allot 20 acres of land to women in Sanghar. The national anti-graft watchdog claims that the land was allotted illegally and trees covering the land were cut down.
Referring to NAB's allegations, the court said that if the watchdog further investigates the matter, it would be revealed that the women who were allotted land were relatives and wives of MNAs and MPAs. It ordered NAB officials to complete inquiry against the accused within four weeks.
In another case, a two-member bench comprising Justice KK Agha and Justice Zulfiqar Ali Sangi, accepted the pleas filed against the sentence awarded to two persons who were convicted of possessing ammunition. Announcing the verdict on the plea, the court annulled the trial court's verdict.
According to police, a hand grenade was found from the possession of Shahnawaz and Sheeraz in 2018, following which a trial court had sentenced them to 14 years of imprisonment. The case against them was registered at Malir Police Station, the police said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2019.