The Criminal justice system and low rate of conviction

A Crime-free society can be a plan, an agenda, and a dream but not a reality. The Protection of the lives of citizens is the basic assignment of any state. Protection of life, property, and honor in a state distinguished a state from an old tribal society. Civilized societies like to have a proper legal system of punishment and reward. In Pakistan, we have law enforcement agencies, police, prosecution departments, legislature, and judiciary. But it must be acknowledged that we are living in a society where murders, thefts, extortions, gender-based violence, and kidnappings are a routine matter. Being a prosecutor, I must confess that the rate of convictions is not satisfactory in Pakistan. Pakistan is at number 117 on the on Rule of Law Index. There are many reasons for this state affairs. For understanding problems and finding solutions, we ought to confer on everything in details. Here, we will discuss only the basic problems of the criminal justice system.

A criminal case generally starts with the lodging of for by a private party but in some cases police lodge FIR. The first problem comes to surface when people register first information reports after much delay . In rape cases, complainants make compromises and witnesses seldom come to give evidence. At times, victims or their heirs report criminal cases of different nature but they unintentionally erase evidence eg. Changing and washing clothes and body in sexual violence cases . The victims and their heirs don’t permit doctors to conduct post-mortems and medical-legal examinations in cases of violence. Even performance of MLC by an inexperience doctors is itself objectionable and risky . On some occasions, the victims or their heirs falsely charge the relatives of the real accused which destroy the story of their genuine case. While in the courts, the victims and witnesses fail to control nerves in front of the seasoned defense lawyers. Witnesses happen to be unaware of the technicalities of giving evidence. They usually do not know the basics of appearing in courts as witnesses. Resultantly , defense counsels shake their credibility and create doubts in the cases of prosecution. Moreover, lack of funds to integrate safe city projects is a problem.

Secondly, , It has been observed that police officials are unskilled, less educated and exhausted. They lack sophisticated and modern crime investigation training and equipment . They commit mistakes in preserving the crime scene and evidence of crimes. They commit mistakes in ensuring the safe chain of custody of case properties especially in narcotics cases. Police officials make mistakes in the documentation of their proceedings. They do not have the mental maturity to tackle the difficult situations that they face in cross-examinations. They are criticized for taking bribes and custodial tortures. They do not know the modern techniques of investigation. They cannot collect evidence properly which is their basic duty in case of investigation.

Thirdly, the prosecution department is the ultimate defender and an advocate of the victims in criminal cases because a prosecutor represents a state. Prosecution departments are the overlooked departments. Prosecutors plead the criminal cases on of the victims and they represent the state . They try to prove cases beyond any shadow of a doubt. Usually, the prosecution fails to prove the cases, and the majority of criminals are acquitted. Multiple reasons can be assigned for this crisis. On one side, it can be called the incompetency of prosecutors but on the contrary, it is a cumulative effect of many factors. An underprivileged prosecutor can bring little change when he meets face-to-face with renowned lawyers supported by a giant and resourceful team. Prosecutors try to secure justice for the victims even though the Prosecution department is considered a complementary entity, not a vital part of the legal system.

Fourthly, the policy makers must think about the genuine issues instead of debating decades-old rhetorical ideas of blaming others. First of all, police constables are given meager salaries that are inadequate to meet their needs. Similar is the case with prosecutors who are posted in different remote cities without security. Prosecutors in KPK do not have proper offices and they are compelled to sit in front of courts on benches where rapists and drug dealers sit. Most importantly, a prosecutor does not have powers, resources, offices, or up to date digital tools. Generally, Police are notorious for transgressions but nobody bothers to see the problems of an ordinary constable.Meagre salaries, political and bureaucratic pressure, ancient weapons, and, terrorists attacks , improper working hours and little support from high ups drain their energy and enthusiasm to serve the state. Burying head in the sand Is not a solution. The average conviction rate in Pakistan is just 11.66%, which is very low compared to other countries. In India it is 37%, South Africa 38%, Australia 85%, USA 85%, and Japan, it is 99%, A comprehensive policy shift is needed in this situation.

The Following are a few recommendations in this respect. Frivolous cases must be discouraged. A general awareness with the collaboration of prosecutors and students of law colleges must be given to the public regarding criminal justice system. Prosecutors must be given facilities, digital equipment, libraries, offices and security. They must be given authority for achieving a better rate of conviction and discouraging false and baseless cases. A dedicated team of assistants must be provided to the senior prosecutors who deal with heinous crimes. If proper prosecution is the objective, then prosecutors must be given their due respect as the main players in courts. Lastly, the police department must be facilitated. An investigation officer waits for weeks in order to transmit recovered material for FSL examination to the laboratories in the capitals and then to receive results. The lower staff has dual duties as operation staff as well as they work with investigation officers. The government must ensure accountability and facilities simultaneously. The authorities must not be compelled to prove every case even though it is a frivolous one. Especially prosecutors must be encouraged to play their role in providing justice to the innocent party irrespective of fact whether that party is the accused or the complainant. To conclude, I strongly support a high level of performance evaluation, monitoring, accountability, and transparency in all government departments. On the other hand, if an employee is incapable to properly feed his kids, pay their education expenses and buy medicine for them, am I legit to expect that he / she will do his / her duty with utmost dedication? I am sure that this is humanly very difficult. Therefore, a comprehensive policy shift is needed for a progressive shift.

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