Friday September 22, 2023

Punjab refuses to set up ‘faceless courts’ for terror cases

Highly reliable sources tell “Jang” that KP had started working on the establishment of the special courts

August 22, 2023
The cabinet of Punjab can be seen in a meeting. — Radio Pakistan/File
The cabinet of Punjab can be seen in a meeting. — Radio Pakistan/File

LAHORE: The Punjab government has refused to set up special “faceless courts” for the trial of highly sensitive cases of terrorism. The federal government had issued instructions to the provinces for the establishment of the courts.

Highly reliable sources told “Jang” that KP had started working on the establishment of the special courts. Sources said that the most important aspect in the establishment of the “faceless” courts is that the hearings in the courts would be kept secret and the accused would not know about the judge, lawyer, witnesses and investigating officer.

Sources said that Punjab had taken a stand that there were anti-terrorism courts in the province and there was no need for “faceless courts”. Punjab took a position that earlier under Section 21 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, it is clearly written in the “Protection of Judges” that where the Anti-Terrorism Court deems it appropriate, it shall take steps to protect judges, witnesses, public prosecutors, counsel and any other persons concerned hearing cases of violence.

Among them include in-camera hearing, permission to certain persons to participate in the hearing of the case, measures to protect the witnesses and the victim’s family (plaintiff) from the threatening atmosphere during the hearing. Names of judges, prosecutors, witnesses and persons related to the case cannot be published. According to sub-section (c) of section 21 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, during any inquiry, investigation or judicial proceedings in a case of terrorism, whenever the question of the identity of the accused comes up, adequate security shall be provided to the witness identifying the accused. It will be done so that the identity of the witness can be hidden from the accused.

According to sub-section 2 of section 21 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, the Punjab government can deploy the armed forces wherever it wants to provide comprehensive security to judges, witnesses, prosecutors and defence counsel in cases of terrorism. . In addition, screens can be installed as a shield to protect witnesses, judges and prosecutors from the public eye during the trial.

Trial by video link can take place inside the jail; the government can make a plan to protect witnesses and the provincial government will ensure that inmates do not have access to mobile phones in jail. Sources said that Official Secret Act cases could also be heard in the “faceless courts.” The Punjab government has informed the federal government about its stand regarding the special courts and said that there was no need for them in the presence of anti-terrorism courts.

When contacted, Provincial Information Minister Amir Mir said that he was not aware of the issue, and can only speak after asking the chief minister about.