ISLAMABAD: At a full court session marking the beginning of the new judicial year on Saturday, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry lamented the dearth of qualified and competent investigation officers, saying terrorists were walking free because of careless investigations and weak prosecutions.
The chief justice said “negligence on the part of investigating agency was damaging the prosecution case”.
“Due to defective and careless investigation and weak prosecution, a large number of terrorists and criminals get released by courts, which is not only lowering the image of judiciary but also encouraging the criminals,” said the chief justice. “There is need to improve the quality of investigation by educating the investigators with the current laws.”
He pointed out that each investigation officer (IO) had a “heavy workload, which is one of the causes of deterioration in the standard of investigation.”
The issue was considered by National Judicial Policy Making Committee (NJPMC) and it was resolved that the investigation should be entrusted to competent and qualified officers, asserted Chaudhry.
“It should be ensured that a reasonable number of cases be assigned to each IO. Further, an accused could not be sentenced without credible evidence”.
He was of the view that in cases of heinous crimes, especially terrorist and sectarian offences, witnesses hesitate to come to courts and testify against the accused persons because there is no protection for them.
The Anti-Terrorism Courts were not functioning properly in Sindh due to non-appointment of presiding officers, despite the recommendations of the chief justice of the high court, he said. “Consequently, the law and order situation deteriorates and the people face great difficulty.”
In the year 2011 the government was asked to fill the vacant posts of ATC judges, accordingly four judges were appointed but many posts remained vacant, the chief justice noted.
The chief justice called for steps to eradicate corruption in lower levels of judiciary and delays at all levels of the judicial process.
He further said that “there is a dire need to strengthen the surveillance systems of the courts at district level for which I will urge the members of the bar to come forward and join us to eradicate corruption.”
While praising the top court judges, he said, the judges of Supreme Court largely contributed towards establishing the rule of law and supremacy of constitution in the country. “After restoration, the target we had was to erect a well-entrenched responsive judicial system which dispenses justice on merit in a fair, unbiased and a meaningful manner.” In this background, the ‘national judicial policy’ was launched after broad consensus and thorough consultation with all the stakeholders of justice sector, he said.
The policy is aimed at ensuring independence of judiciary, clearance of backlog, expeditious dispensation of justice and eradication of corruption, said chief justice.
“Importance has been accorded to cases involving violation of fundamental rights and personal liberty, and freedom of individual.” Cases involving public revenue or having close nexus with economic development and good governance have been prioritised for early disposal, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2013.