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February 3, 2017

DNA tests now mandatory in rape cases


February 3, 2017

Sindh Assembly passes amendment bill, whereby samples must be collected within 72 hours of the incident

At long last DNA testing became a mandatory part of investigating cases of sexual assault in Sindh, when the provincial legislature unanimously passed the relevant law on Thursday.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Nisar Khuhro moved the Code of Criminal Procedure (Sindh Amendment) Bill 2017 for making DNA tests compulsory while probing rape cases to provide material evidence, facilitate the investigation and ensure justice.

According to the amendments, a police officer should collect the DNA sample from the survivor or victim within 72 hours of the incident through laboratories recognised by the provincial government.

If the officer fails to collect the sample within 72 hours, reads the bill, he or she should make all efforts to collect it within a week of the incident and preserve it in privacy in the hospital or in the forensic lab.

The bill also says the results of the tests should be maintained at the Central Police Office in confidentiality and under the control of an officer not below the rank of grade 19.

Khuhro said DNA test was considered an important step of investigation of cases pertaining to crimes against women and children.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Sharmila Faruqui said DNA samples of rape survivors were sent to laboratories in Lahore, Multan and Islamabad, and in certain instances the investigators had to wait for the results for months.

She said a campaign should be launched in consultation with the home department for spreading awareness about the importance of collecting DNA samples and conducting forensic testing in rape cases without delay.

Health Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro said it was wrong to assume that there was no DNA testing lab facility in the province, adding that one such lab was operating at the Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences in Jamshoro.

He said the lab had the capacity of examining 10 DNA samples a day and could provide the most authentic results in cases of criminal forensic investigation.

Mandhro said police investigators in Sindh were no longer dependent on forensic labs in Lahore and Islamabad, adding that action would be taken against the officials who failed to collect DNA samples within 72 hours of the incident.

The Sindh Assembly also unanimously passed the Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2015 for increasing compensation to victims of roads traffic accidents in case of passengers of inter-city or intra-city buses operating in the province.

Moved by Transport Minister Nasir Hussain Shah, the bill envisages that transporters operating public carriers in the province would be required to compensate their passengers if they fell victim to an accident through the system of group insurance instead of the old system of bank guarantee.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Sardar Ahmed opposed the proposal, saying that not a single passenger would be compensated due to the cumbersome procedures of insurance companies, but his argument was rejected by the house.

The legislature also passed the Sindh Arms (Amendment) Bill 2017 for revising the Sindh Arms Act 2013. The amendment bill is aimed at allowing arms licences of non-prohibited bore for personal protection to federal government employees, army/civil armed personnel, employees of the judiciary, employees of autonomous bodies/corporations and directors/senior management of public and private limited companies belonging to other provinces but posted and discharging their duties in Sindh.

The house also unanimously passed a resolution moved by PPP lawmaker Ghulam Murtaza Baloch calling upon the Centre to extend 80 per cent subsidy on electricity bills of tube wells being used for agricultural purposes in the province.

Speaking on the resolution, Khuhro slammed the federal government by saying that its much-trumpeted Kissan packages had not offered anything substantial for agriculturists of Sindh.

He said that in India, the government had been providing free electricity to farmers for running tube wells, besides offering fertiliser on subsidised rates and other incentives.

Khuhro said farmers in Sindh were forced to spend thousands of rupees on a monthly basis for purchasing diesel for running tube wells, which had to be operated due to shortage of water in the province for irrigation purposes.