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January 23, 2020

IGP, home secretary put on notice for ignoring court directives in rape cases


January 23, 2020

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday directed the home secretary, Sindh inspector general of police (IGP) and others to file their replies on a contempt-of-court application over non-compliance of court directives in cases of rape and assault on women.

The applicants had approached the SHC against non-compliance with the court directives to the home department, district and sessions courts and anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) regarding arrangements for the administration of DNA tests, recording of victims’ statements through video conferencing and in-camera trial proceedings in rape and woman assault cases.

A counsel for the applicants submitted that the SHC had on January 31, 2019, directed the IGP and the Sindh prosecutor general to ensure proper arrangements for conducting DNA tests as well as in-camera trial in the cases pertaining to rape.

He submitted that alleged contemnors were deliberately violating the court directives despite a lapse of eleven months, and the preservation and testing of DNA evidence was sporadic, un-standardised and delayed while the facilities available for DNA testing continued to be severely limited and dysfunctional.

Referring to a rape case in Sujawal, the counsel submitted that the survivor continued to await DNA test results despite a lapse of four months. The lawyer added that there had also been no progress in conducting rape trials in camera or after court hours, and even child survivors continued to be confronted with perpetrators of sexual violence in open court rooms and had to repeatedly suffer through this till the recording of evidence.

The SHC was informed that victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault continued to suffer prejudiced investigations and trials, and denial of justice as the orders for making these trials effective and sensitised to the nature of the offence remained unheeded.

The high court was requested to take action against the alleged contemnors for violating the court directives.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar issued notices to the Sindh IGP and home secretary with the direction to appear in person. The bench also directed the prosecutor general and member inspection team-II (MIT-II) to appear in person along with their replies on February 13.

The court was informed by the MIT-II in January last year that as many as 1,070 accused were facing trial in 474 cases pertaining to rape and assault on woman wherein 21 cases were being tried in camera.

The report stated that 31 accused were juveniles wherein DNA tests were conducted in 142 cases besides statements under the Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) were recorded in 191 cases. The report said that arrangements were made only in seven cases to ensure that victims and witnesses were not exposed to the accused persons.

The high court was informed that 43 accused were facing trials in 16 cases pending before the ATCs, in which DNA tests were conducted in 10 cases, statements under the Section 164 of the CrPC were recorded in five cases and five cases were being tried in camera. The report said that in one case, screens and other arrangements were made so that victims may not face the accused persons.

Earlier, an additional law secretary had also informed the court that the Sindh government had amended the Section 156 (B) and inserted section 156-(C) and 156 (D) in the CrPC, making the DNA testing mandatory in the sexual assault cases.

He had submitted that under the criminal procedure code, the DNA testing of the rape victims shall be mandatory and it was to be conducted by a 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 the crime.

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

Petitioners Kainat Soomro and others have maintained in the petition 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 have named the provincial police chief and health secretary as respondents in their petition, have asked the high court to direct the respondents to take immediate steps to improve the investigation system.

The petitioners have also asked the SHC to direct the authorities to establish a rape crisis cell in each district of the province to help the survivors acquire immediate medical, financial and legal assistance.