With 5,500 cases in backlog, criminals stay off the hook

Legal experts blame poor prosecution and inefficient investigation for delays.


Naeem Sahoutara October 23, 2013
The prosecutor general’s report showed that 5,270 cases registered under the Arms laws and 296 under the Explosives Act were registered by the police from October 6, 2011 to May 31, 2013. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: More than 5,000 cases registered under the arms and explosives acts are pending trial, The Express Tribune learnt on Tuesday.

According to official statistics, these cases — estimated at 5,566 — form a large chunk of the cases gathering dust in the subordinate courts in the city. This disclosure was made by the former Sindh Prosecutor General Shahadat Awan in a report submitted to the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, during the last hearing of the Karachi law and order suo motu implementation case, had expressed extreme displeasure over the performance of the provincial prosecution department and called the record of pending criminal cases.

Of the 20 directives given in the landmark judgment in the Karachi violence case, which in opinion of many jurists is the recipe for healing the city’s wounds, only one has been implemented so far - amendments to the Arms Law.

The prosecutor general’s report showed that 5,270 cases registered under the Arms laws and 296 under the Explosives Act were registered by the police from October 6, 2011 to May 31, 2013, and have been pending in the courts ever since.

The statistics showed that 4,360 cases for possession of illegal arms were registered by the police under the Arms Ordinance 1965 in Karachi alone, out of which most cases, 1,213, were registered in district East, 1,063 in district West, 900 in Malir and 316 in district South. Around 43 cases were pending before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) I, 48 at ATC II, 16 at ATC III, 12 at ATC IV and 22 at ATC V. Currently, there are 910 cases registered under Section 23-A of the Sindh Arms Ordinance 2013 which are pending adjudication in the respective courts.

Similarly, 296 cases registered under the Explosives Act are also waiting to be heard — the highest number of cases, 117, were registered in district West, 87 in district South, 30 in district East, nine in district Central and 23 in Malir.

Hold-ups

Legal experts believe that effective prosecution needed for conviction has been missing. “These delays are a reflection of the inefficient police and prosecution departments,” said Sindh High Court Bar Association President Mustafa Lakhani. “Overall changes in the criminal procedure are required, otherwise the poor situation of disposal of cases will continue to help criminals who are roaming around the city freely.”

To escape the wrath of the apex court, which has been trying to restore the state’s writ since August 2011, the former Pakistan Peoples Party-led government had hurriedly passed the Sindh Arms Act 2013 two weeks before the its tenure ended in March.

The Karachi Bar Association had filed a petition in the high court, questioning the legality of the new law and arguing that although it was notified in the gazette, no official notification to this effect was issued by the government till May.

While the controversy later settled down, KBA President Naeem Qureshi said that delaying tactics by lawyers in addition to inefficient investigation and poor prosecution were responsible for the backlog of cases.

“An illicit weapon, which is found in custody of the suspect, should immediately be sent to the forensic laboratory for examination by a ballistics expert. Similarly, statements of the witnesses should be recorded in time to cope with the problem,” said Qureshi.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2013.

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