Sunday January 23, 2022

SHC seeks details of pending rape cases in Sindh

January 16, 2019

The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the registrar of anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) and member inspection team-II of SHC to submit a consolidated statement on pending rape cases in the province’s trial courts.

The court passed the orders while hearing a petition seeking the implementation of the Supreme Court’s directives of making the investigation process of rape and assault cases effective.

The Sindh prosecutor general informed the court about the compliance with the Supreme Court’s directives and submitted that arrangements of DNA tests were available at Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences Jamshoro, while an MoU had been signed with the Karachi University to introduce such a facility in Karachi. He further said that police stations have already compiled a list of civil society organisations and maintaining registers of such organisations.

The court was informed that statements of victims were being recorded properly under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that with regards to compliance with court directions regarding trial courts it would be appropriate to call for the record of pending rape cases in the province.

The court directed the ATCs registrar and MIT-II to submit a consolidated statement of pending cases in Sindh for further directions. The concerned officials were told to submit their respective reports by January 31.

The additional secretary law had also informed the court that the Sindh government had amended Section 156-B and inserted Section 156-C and 156-D in the criminal procedure code making DNA testing in sexual assault cases mandatory.

He further said that under the criminal procedure, the DNA testing of a rape victim shall be mandatory conducted by police officer through laboratories recognised by the Sindh government wherein the investigation officer shall collect the DNA sample from the victim within 72 hours from the time of incident.

The law department official submitted that the investigation agency shall preserve the DNA sample and its result in the hospital of the forensic laboratory.

Petitioners Kainat Soomro and others maintained that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had directed the provincial government and other authorities to reform the investigation process of rape cases, but the directions of the apex court are not being complied with. They stated that rape survivors are unable to get justice due to a faulty process of investigation.

The petitioners, who also cited the provincial police chief and health secretary as respondents in their petition, asked the court to direct them to take immediate steps to improve the investigation system.

The petitioners also asked the court to direct the authorities to establish a Rape Crisis Cell in each district of the province to facilitate survivors in acquiring immediate medical, financial and legal assistance.

Petitioner’s counsel Faisal Siddiqui had also filed comments on the government’s suggestions and submitted that the court must hold in-camera trials of rape cases that also take place after regular court hours, whereas investigation of all rape cases should be monitored by a senior police officer.

Siddiqui maintained that every police station should have a female police officer who must provide assistance to the rape survivor which should include, but not be limited to, prompt and accurate registration of the complaint.

He further called for the police to be directed to not produce a rape survivor except for when the survivor’s identity is to be ascertained. The counsel also submitted that the investigation officer must conduct the investigation on a priority basis and complete it within 90 days.

He requested for crisis centres to be established as rehabilitation institutions and protected spaces for temporary accommodation of survivors. The centres should have trained female doctors, nurses and counsellors to support and give the required care to a survivor for her recovery; besides medical bills of a rape survivor be borne by the state. The counsel asserted that the Supreme Court’s guidelines for police investigation officers, medico-legal officers, trial courts should be implemented in letter and spirit.