KARACHI: Taking serious notice of non-compliance of its directives, the Sindh High Court (SHC) warned that it will personally summon the provincial social welfare department's secretary if a detailed report regarding the number of children missing in the province was not submitted in court by June 18.
The secretary will explain in writing how many children are missing in each district of the province, how many such cases were entered in the daily diary maintained at each police station and what progress was made for their recovery.
The warning was issued by a division bench, headed by Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto, when the secretary failed to submit details on Friday despite the court's directives on a petition that was filed in 2012.
At the outset of proceedings, the two judges recalled that the court had, on April 30, directed the secretary to inform it about the number of the missing children and submit a complete report in this regard. "Neither has the report been submitted nor is the secretary in attendance," remarked Justice Phulpoto.
When asked about the non-submission of the report, the law officer representing the provincial government, S Samiullah Shah, said that he was unaware about compliance of the court's order. Taking exception to this, the bench directed the social welfare secretary to comply with the order 'well before' the next date of hearing.
"In case of failure, the secretary shall appear in person on the next date of hearing," warned the bench, while granting the officer time for compliance till June 18.
Roshni Research and Development Welfare, a non-governmental organisation, had approached the court in 2012 seeking an order for the Sindh police to declare the cases of missing children as a cognisable offence and register FIRs in this regard.
According to the data collected by the NGO on missing children, 5,000 to 6,000 children go missing every year but due to deliberate negligence on the part of the police, who did not give importance to these cases, many of the children were left at the mercy of their kidnappers and their whereabouts remained unknown.
"The police register complaints about missing children in the police station's daily diary instead of registering an FIR," the group's lawyer, Naveed Ahmed, claimed. "If a proper FIR is registered and the matter is investigated promptly, many children can be recovered and their lives saved."
The NGO alleged that the police did not treat the matter as a cognisable offence and did not usually register an FIR in such cases. It pointed out that hundreds of children were missing but the police did not take any step to trace them.
The court was pleaded to declare that if a child was not found within 48 hours, then the police should be bound to register a kidnapping case and investigate the matter in accordance with the law.
The petitioner asked the court to direct the respondents to submit a report on whether complaints of missing children were registered and investigated. An order was also sought for special training of the police to deal with such cases.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2015.