A Supreme Court bench on Thursday reprimanded the Punjab police chief and prosecutor for their lax attitude in a gang rape case and asked them to present a fresh report on the matter in the apex court on Friday.
The three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry with Justice Jawwad S Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain as its members, took serious notice of the Punjab police officials’ lax attitude and directed them to conduct a fresh inquiry into the case in which a 13-year-old girl from Ratta Amral was raped.
Earlier, three officials of the Punjab police, including a Deputy Superintendent (DSP) were suspended for delaying the registration of FIR and tempering with the report and documents. Later, an out-of-court settlement was struck through a jirga (convention of elders).
The CJ also directed Punjab police chief Haji Habibur Rehman to take action against the jirga members and police officials who arranged and helped the jirga to strike an out-of-court settlement of the gang rape case.
The SC bench also directed the police chief to take action against them for producing forged documents about the decision of the jirga on stamp papers, declaring the matter settled. “How can a jirga issue verdicts when they are not even authorised by the constitution to do so?” the CJP questioned. It is the court and the police to investigate and decide such serious cases, he added.
The SC bench also took exception to the decision of a session’s judge who granted bail to the accused in the case.
It was rights activist Tahira Abdullah, represented by her lawyer Salman Akram Raja, both petitioners in the case, who had informed the court that a private jirga had decided the case. When the two visited the area on the directives of the court, they were threatened of dire consequences by some of the jirga members for pursuing the case.
Abdullah informed the court that the prosecution witnesses backtracked from their earlier statements apparently under duress. To this, the Supreme Court bench asked the prosecutor to punish the witnesses for perjury and bring them to the court.
Moreover, Abdullah said that when she visited the area on June 5, it was difficult to locate the place of the incident.
On this, Raja urged the CJ to give clear directions on the status of jirga system and asked him to declare it illegal. The CJ said, “Jirga has already been declared illegal. And we will be issuing an official clarification on this.”
The judges expressed their dismay over the attitude of the police officials “who collude with the aggressors instead of the helping the victims”.
The CJ also questioned the police officials, how can you deny the occurrence of such an incident when you have already suspended a DSP for tampering FIRs and other evidences. Moreover, the CJ also asked the Punjab IGP to take action against the jirga members and report it on Thursday.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.