‘Interference fears’ prompt suo motu to criminal investigations

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial learned suo motu on Wednesday of fears that criminal justice could be undermined by those in positions of authority and set the case to be heard before a bench of five judges on Thursday (today).

The bench includes Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar.

Chief Justice Bandial took note suo motu of a Supreme Court justice’s recommendations regarding a perceived interference with the independence of the Crown in the exercise of its power and functions to investigate and prosecute cases ongoing criminal cases involving people in positions of government authority.

The opinion was taken amid allegations made by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that soon after coming to power, the current coalition government started influencing different cases and transferring investigators or officers overseeing cases, particularly related to corruption allegations.

Case set for hearing today; SC judge rates ‘no trial’ better than ‘unfair’ proceedings

According to an official announcement, it has been apprehended that such perceived interference may influence the prosecution of cases, the tampering or disappearance of evidence in court or in the possession of prosecution agencies and the transfer/assignment of officers in key positions.

These actions, together with media reports aimed at changing accountability laws, are likely to undermine the functioning of the criminal justice system in the country, which amounts to a violation of fundamental rights affecting society as a whole and eroding the confidence of the people in the rule. law and constitutionalism in the country, according to the announcement.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ruled that excessive and interminable delays in the conclusion of criminal trials are the main challenge facing the criminal justice system, which has a devastating effect on its credibility, transparency, the confidence of the public and their health.

The judgment was written by Judge Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, who was a member of a three-judge bench headed by CJP Umar Ata Bandial who decided on an appeal by the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the judge at Javed Iqbal Retreat vs Lahore March 10, 2020 High Court (LHC) granting bail after arrest to a number of defendants.

Justice Shah stressed that coordinated efforts by all branches of government – ​​legislative, executive and judicial – were needed.

He pointed out that an immediate solution was to activate the provincial justice committees constituted under the National Judiciary Committee (Policy Development) Order 2002.

In addition, the chief justices of the high courts, who chaired these commissions, must convene and hold meetings of these commissions at least on a quarterly basis, specifies the judgment, adding that the vice-presidents of the provincial bars may be invited. to attend and participate in the meetings of these committees, the bar being an important player in the justice system.

Similarly, the District Criminal Justice Coordination Committees established under the Police Ordinance 2002 should also be revitalized to review and improve the functioning of the criminal justice system.

In addition, the higher courts should take up and prioritize issues relating to the appointment of judges in the district court system in relation to the vacancies available and consider the creation of new positions to reduce and rationalize the heavy files of cases before the courts. general courts and special courts, depending on the judgment.

She further added that the delay in concluding a criminal trial was contrary to the very concept of “fair trial” and “due process” guaranteed by Section 10A of the Constitution.

The right to a fair trial is a cardinal requirement of the rule of law. If a defendant cannot be tried fairly for an offence, he should not be tried for it at all, according to the judgment.

The Registry was also directed to send copies of the order to the clerks of all high courts as well as the secretaries of all federal and provincial legal departments or departments.

Posted in Dawn, May 19, 2022

Mark M. Gagnon