Investigation: a weak area of policing

The concept of dispensing justice commences the moment an offence is reported to the police

Syed Akhtar Ali Shah January 19, 2021
The writer is a practising lawyer. He holds PHD in Political Science and heads a think-tank ‘Good Governance Forum’. He can be reached at [email protected]

The police, prosecution and judiciary are considered to be the main building blocks of the criminal administration justice system aiming to dispense justice. In this chariot of justice, the police may be termed the engine playing a pivotal role in bringing offenders to justice. The focus of the criminal justice system is on the word ‘justice’ which provides the foundation upon which the edifice of a civilised state is raised by maintaining equilibrium in society. The concept of dispensing justice commences the moment an offence is reported to the police. With the receipt of information, the whole machinery of the system is set into motion and thus begins the process of investigation.

Investigation in the simplest terms is the collection of evidence, and the job of the investigator is to find out the truth. Upon the efficacy of the officer depends the collection of incriminating evidence to connect a suspect with an offence. The success of the police and public order rests upon the efficiency of the investigation. Its failure leads to more crime and ultimately dissatisfaction in society. Therefore, better detection is also termed better prevention.

As mentioned, the job of the police is to administer justice. Therefore, even at the investigation stage, an investigator is required to ascertain the involvement of a suspect or his innocence in a reported case. It is only upon prima facie and material evidence that the investigator may arrest a suspect, otherwise an investigating officer is legally authorised to defer the arrest of a suspect till the collection of sufficient material evidence in support of the complaint. His professional efficiency should demonstrate his capacity to sift the grain from the chaff. Thus, the main job of an investigator is to search for the truth, a factor that opens the door of justice.

Finding out the reality is quite arduous when two parties assert their version to be the truth. This essentially requires legal acumen, skills, perseverance, due diligence, honesty and courage. In matters of investigation, even a minor missing link can prove to be fatal for the success of a prosecution case. Therefore, it requires sufficient skills while preparing a crime scene with the various steps of recovery memorandum, time of arrival and departure in a daily diary, sampling parcels of incriminating material, sending parcels to the forensic laboratory within time, identification parade, dying declaration and interrogation involved.

Most cases fail due to the non-observance of protocols, lack of knowledge of the relevant laws, delays in trials and frequent posting and transfers of the investigators. The investigator must be aware that every person is innocent until proved guilty. Thus, the onus will always be on the investigator to prove the allegations beyond the shadow of a doubt as any loophole in a prosecution case will lead to acquittal.

Courts have been quite critical of the poor quality of investigation in Pakistan. The Supreme Court, having observed the lacunas in investigations, has ordered preparation of a handbook. In pursuance of the direction, the National Police Bureau deserves appreciation for structuring and launching a handbook for investigators. Although efforts to improve investigations had also been made in the past, such as with the Police Rules 1934 as well literature published from time to time to provide the basic guidelines, the bitter truth, however, is that the area of investigation in Pakistan remains quite weak.

Statistics also suggest that most of the cases end up in acquittals either due to compromises or lack of professionalism. The obvious question that comes to mind is: why?

An analysis of criminal case investigations revealed a reliance on ocular and confessional statements as the main cause of not only failures but also tortures. An emphasis on the citing of witnesses for sighting an occurrence, most often leads to planting. Similarly, the weapon of offence is also planted and fired in order to match the empties. As a result, the planted witnesses cannot stand the cross-examination of an intelligent lawyer, causing the case to end up in acquittal.

All said and done, most investigators emerge from the junior ranks (up to inspectors). They imbibe whatever they have learnt during their initial and in-service training such as Lower, Intermediate and Upper Courses. Unfortunately, the quality of the instructors imparting training is not up to the mark. Therefore, the product is also not of quality.

There is no denying that training plays a vital role in harnessing the qualities of the personnel to realise the goals of the organisation. Modern policing speaks of functional specialisation in areas of investigation as well, for which our training institutes are not equipped with, both in terms of personnel as well as matter. Moreover, a separate specialised cadre of investigation is also required. It is therefore time the quality of instructors was improved to match the ideals and a specialised cadre was raised.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2021.

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