Delay in the dispensation of justice amounts to exploitation
Justice is integrally connected to fairness, with the two terms often being used interchangeably. However, the two are essentially different phenomena because justice is provided by an impartial third person/ entity while fairness is considered to be voluntary. Arbitrariness is the opposite of justice. It affects the society, the processes of administrating justice, the function of governments and the economic well-being of the people. Justice quietly forms the foundation of a civilised society in which equal political, economic, social and religious rights are guaranteed and protected.
The courts of law grant people the expectation and hope for justice. ‘I will see you in court’ is commonly used as a warning or a threat by a party during a time of dispute with another. These words reflect the confidence the people have in the judicial system and the administration of justice.
The right of access to justice is one of the internationally recognised human rights under Article 8 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Islam also attaches extraordinary significance to the dispensation of justice. Likewise, Article 37(d) of Pakistan’s constitution lays emphasis on expeditious justice.
Expeditious dispensation of justice protects the accused as well as the complainant from the agony of a prolonged trial, mental anguish and economic degradation. Delay in the dispensation of justice amounts to exploitation. An early dispensation of justice prevents out-of-court asettlements reached through application of force and coercive apparatus.
In Pakistan, justice is frequently dispensed after unreasonable delays. Such delays not only amount to a denial of justice but also defeat equity. Delayed justice erodes the trust and the confidence of the people in the administration of justice. It also hampers the socio-economic development of a people. Dispensation of timely justice is one of the basic duties of criminal courts to control crime and to bring harmony in a society.
People commit crimes when conflicts between personal and individual interest occur. Unemployment, poverty, religion, politics and lack of education are just some of the other causes that motivate people to commit crimes.
Expeditious dispensation of justice protects the accused as well as the complainant from the agony of a prolonged trial, mental anguish and economic degradation.
After an offence has been committed, the police are often found reluctanr to register a first information report (FIR). The officer in charge of a police station is duty bound to register an FIR under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) when a cognisable offence is reported to them or comes to their knowledge. Even when an FIR is registered, at times the police fail to complete the investigation within 14 days. This has an impact on the right of the accused to ensure an early completion of trial because an accused person is entitled to a fair trial under Article 10 A. The provision for the accused’s right to life is ensured under Article 9, which states that “no one shall be deprived of his life or liberty except in accordance with the law.”
If an investigation fails to be completed within 24 hours under Section 61 of the CrPC and Article 10 of the constitution, the accused is to be produced before a magistrate by a police officer for grant of remand, which is usually granted for not more than 15 days.
During the remand, a frequent practice is the employment of torture to extract evidence. This is a violation of Article 14, which provide that “no person shall be subjected to torture to extract evidence.”
During the remand, the accused may be, at times, compelled and tortured to record confessional statements under Sections 164 and 364 of the criminal procedure code. But a confessional statement extracted through torture and recorded with a considerable delay, cannot be relied upon, the typical understanding being that the longer the custody, the less the value of a confessional statement.
When no reasonable justification is offered for incarceration, the accused is favoured for bail. Bail cannot be withheld as a punishment and no accused can be kept in jail merely on allegations of involvement in a heinous offence.
The police have the power to release the accused under Section 169 of the CrPC, when during investigation they find that the evidence is deficient.
Due to a lack of resources and equipment for scientific investigation or defective investigation or exaggeration in reporting of a matter or incident by the complainant to the police, the accused are often acquitted by the courts.
Justice grants everyone their rights. It is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, law, religion and natural law. There is a need to ensure that Pakistan’s criminal justice system offers its citizens its due rights.
The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan based in Peshawar. He has an LLM in constitutional law