Lahore: The Punjab Public Prosecution Department has been in the cross hairs for all the wrong reasons; insufficient service and physical infrastructure; archaic legal system; faulty Prosecution Act; high employee turnover; insufficient recruitment, backlog of cases and last but not least lack of ownership by the government.

In their private meetings, the PML-N government officers call the Public Prosecution Department (PPD) ‘The Gujrat Department’, a sarcastic reference to the Pervaiz Elahi, former Punjab Chief Minister who belongs to Gujrat and had established the prosecution department in Punjab in 2004, says a senior prosecutor Punjab, requesting anonymity.

Mohammad Sharif, Deputy District Public Prosecutor at District and Sessions’ Court Lahore, informs News Lens Pakistan that he has been in litigation with the government of Punjab over the service structure of the prosecution department. He deplores the department’s plight telling how it does not have any proper office for the prosecutors, even chairs, tables and telephones are in short supply.

He said, “For 40 prosecutors in the Session Court Lahore we have eight rooms. The Public Prosecution Department comprises two floors in a rented building where only a handful of prosecutors could be accommodated. Approximately 20 districts of Punjab have no permanent District Prosecutors.” According to the budget, 35 seats for district prosecutors are lying empty as of now. Twenty-five seats of Deputy Prosecutor General are empty in High Court. Nine seats of Additional Prosecutor General are vacant. Overall 50 percent slots are unoccupied in the prosecution department, adding to the burden of the prosecutors. At the district level, one DDPP is handling 200 cases in addition to 20 to 30 police reports dealt with on daily basis. They also have to write criminal reviews and scrutiny reports, he added.

Syed Ali Murtaza, Secretary Public Prosecution Department, conceded to the situation of the prosecution department given by the DDPP Sharif.

Talking to News Lens Pakistan, he says the government has taken initiative to build prosecution departments in Gujrat, Sialkot, Faisalabad and Rajanpur.

The secretary accepts that the salary package of the Deputy District Public Prosecutor is low and says that the government is trying to bring the salary of the DDPP at par with the session judge.

Mohammad Altaf Ishaq another DDPP says to News Lens Pakistan that the turnover rate of the prosecution department is very high. Because of low salary structure, prosecutors opt for the job of the session judge. This trend has made this department a ‘launching pad’ for the new entrants into the legal profession.

“There is no system of promotion. For the last nine years, those who have been hired as DDPP are still working in the same slot, with no expectation of any promotion either in the future. The post of the Prosecutor General is a political post, so is the secretary prosecutions’. They are doing government’s bidding and have no idea of our problems. Talking about hiring in anti-terrorism courts he says that junior prosecutors are selected because of their connections with the higher-ups.

On the other hand, police does not cooperate with us. Ninety-nine percent of the time challan (investigation report) are sent contain serious flaws,” says Ishaq.

Sitting with this scribe in the District Prosecutor General’s office Ishaq and his colleagues said that the investigating officers (IO) are usually not properly trained to carry out investigation. Lack of evidence collecting, packaging and dispatching skills result in loss of pertinent information. Most of the time wrong sections of law are applied in the challan. People against whom not a shred of evidence could be established are implicated in cases. And even if the prosecutor sends the challan back, nothing substantial happens.

In this riddle, the complainant suffers the most due to delayed justice because of repeated extensions in the date of hearing. This explains why our courts are burdened with backlogs, and why cases have been on trial for years.

Speaking to News Lens Pakistan, Senior Superintendent Police investigation, Rana Ayyaz Saleem, said that if the nexus between the prosecutors and the IO is not working and defective challans are being submitted in the court, then the onus of guilt cannot solely lie on the police. Some soul-searching is needed at the part of the prosecutors as well.

“Legally speaking prosecutors must not forward any challan unless it’s worth it. If a prosecutor forwards it under the pressure of the police then God bless them. The prosecutors have the legal authority to get the things rectified and if they are not doing it, then they cannot be exonerated of this sin,” says Saleem.

He further adds that police faces its own constrains because of discrepancy in the Police Order 2002 and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1898. The police order says one thing while the procedure or the law says another due to which one fails to get to the bottom of the crime on many occasions.

Similarly, court’s refusal to admit modern evidence collecting techniques such as Geo-fencing, which is collecting criminals’ phone call data, poses serious challenges to the investigation process.

Talking about CrPC, he says it is about time that either we scrapped it or amended it in line with modern circumstantial requirements. In the absence of a new legal system, we would simply reinforce corrupt practices in police, in the prosecution department and in judiciary, with the result that the Criminal Justice System (CJS) will remain ineffective or would only serve the powerful.

There are four tiers of CJS, and if even one is not functioning properly, it has a domino effect on the rest three. Beginning with police or law enforcement agencies this chain includes prosecution, courts and prisons.

Pakistan inherited English Jurisprudence tailored to suit the colonial mind-set to keep the colonies marginalized and inferior through rigid and defective legal procedures.

A Deputy Prosecutor General Punjab, on condition of anonymity, told News Lens Pakistan, “It looks waste of labour today. The judicial system has not improved a bit during the last eight years since the lawyers’ movement.

The plight of the lawyers has worsened. The prosecution department which could prove game changer if allowed to work independently is withering because of the indifference of the government and the superior judiciary.

“A prosecutor assists a judge in his/her interpretation of the case. In the present scenario, this relationship has turned into a relationship between a master and a subordinate.”

The Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 and the Punjab Criminal Prosecution Service Act 2006 have created havoc to the prosecution services in Punjab. According to Section 9/7 of the Prosecution Act, the prosecutor has to submit a review report about the case in court, but the CrPC, that the judges follow for ruling is silent about it, because of which the judges Ninety-Nine percent of the time refuse to review the report and hear the case according to the challan only. Whereupon the case is either cancelled due to insufficient evidence, or is sent back to the prosecutor for further deliberation.

According to the prosecutors, the judge should take cognizance directly on the recommendation of the prosecutors. This would require amendment to sections 190 and 193 of CrPC.

The Deputy Prosecutor General Punjab says that the prosecutors do not have the right to stop or drop the case. He further adds that the prosecution department is bound under Section 9/5 to scrutinize the case and give recommendations to the IO. However at the end of the day the case would still be tried whether the investigation has been adequate or not.

The prosecutors, he says, should be empowered to terminate unjustified and unwarranted cases by making an amendment to section 173 of CrPC.

Secretary prosecution Syed Ali Murtaza while talking to News Lens Pakistan admits that there is abnormality in the system and says that amendments to the Prosecution Act, CrPC and Police Act 2002 are required. He calls it ridiculous that on the one hand the law wants the prosecutors to scrutinize the case and give recommendation while on the other it does not obligate the judiciary to listen to the prosecutors. He says the result is that the prosecutors have become unmotivated. There came a time according to the Secretary when the prosecutors had stopped giving recommendations or even writing any finding about the scrutiny. The government had to take punitive actions to get this statutory exercise resumed.

“I do not blame the prosecutors. Would not they try to avoid the wrath of the court and the police by simply keeping mum to the flaws in the challan? The prosecutors should have independence and judges should not be saying if the case is fit for trial or not,” says Ali.

In the absence of a foolproof case, the judges throw their anger on the prosecutors, blaming them for the entire mismanagement.


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