The Sindh High Court on Friday directed the home department, district courts and anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) to ensure that arrangements be made for conducting DNA tests, recording victims’ statement through video conferencing and conducting in-camera trial proceedings in rape and assault on women cases.
The directives came on a petition seeking the implementation of the Supreme Court’s directions for making the investigation process of rape and assault cases effective.
At Friday’s hearing, Member Inspection Team and Anti-Terrorism Court’s registrar submitted details of the rape cases in the province. According to them, as many as 1,070 accused were facing trial in 474 cases pertaining to rape and assault on women wherein 21 cases were being tried in camera. The report stated that 31 accused were juveniles, while DNA tests were conducted in 142 cases and statements under Section 164 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) were recorded in 191 cases. It added arrangements were made only in seven cases in which victims and witnesses may not be revealed to the accused persons.
The court was further informed that 43 accused were facing trials in 16 cases pending before anti-terrorism courts in which DNA tests were conducted in 10 cases, statements under Section 164 CrPC were recorded in five cases and five cases were being tried in camera. The report stated that in one case, screens and other arrangements were made so that victims and vulnerable victims may not face the accused persons.
The SHC division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that the statement submitted by MIT-II with the breakup transpires that 164 CrPC statements were being recorded though not promptly. However, the ratio of cases in which screens or other arrangements were made so that victims and witnesses may not be exposed to accused persons is very low.
According to the bench, the SC judgment was issued in 2012 but its proper implementation and application has not been made so far. The court observed that directions issued in the judgment do not seem to be very difficult which could not be complied with by the district courts or ATCs despite the lapse of considerable time.
Disposing of the petition, the SHC directed the district courts as well as ATCs to comply with the orders of the apex court and directed the home secretary to provide funds for necessary arrangements. The court also directed the Sindh IGP and prosecutor general to ensure proper arrangements for conducting DNA tests in rape-related cases.
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 CrPC making DNA testing in sexual assault cases mandatory. He submitted that under the code, DNA testing of the 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.