Implementation of anti-rape laws

Another instance of hindering the course of justice comes to light during the recent hearing of a rape case in LHC

August 13, 2021

Delay in providing justice takes many forms. Another instance of hindering the course of justice has come to light during the recent hearing of a rape case in the Lahore High Court, which has taken the police to task for their incorrect course of investigation in cases of sexual assault, particularly for failing to implement some provisions of the Anti-Rape (Investigation & Trial) Ordinance 2020. The police say they have been unable to comply with law due to shortage of funds and capacity. According to figures given by the police, under schedule 1 and 2 of the ITO 2020 in 36 districts of Punjab, 13,307 and 20,994 cases, respectively, were registered in the first seven months of this year. In none of these cases, neither have JITs been formed nor have any gazetted officers been appointed as investigation officer.

Describing the police’s shortcomings as a serious violation of law, an angry LHC CJ, Justice Ali Zia Bajwa, wrote in his judgment that the court could not ignore such slackness that might have grave consequences. He termed the failure to follow the relevant law at such a large scale utter dereliction of duty by the police, saying the most astonishing aspect of the whole thing is that provisions of the ITO 2020 were not adhered to even in a single case. One could not help conclude that law was bypassed at times without number.

Explaining their inability to implement the ordinance, the police claimed they had no funds, technical expertise and other resources to establish Anti-Rape Investigation Units. This is a sad state of affairs that reflects poorly on the government. The office of the attorney general lays the blame at the door of the police department maintaining that it is its duty to implement the investigation part of the ordinance.

Roadblocks in the way of the implementation of ITO 2020 should be removed at the earliest in view of the rising cases of sexual assault in the country. The authorities should consider the issue with empathy.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2021.

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