KARACHI: The home department has sought proposals from the antiterrorism courts about funds and infrastructure needs required to conduct in-camera trial of rape cases across the province, Dawn has learnt.
The registrar of the home department for the antiterrorism courts, Abdul Waheed Khoso, told Dawn that he had asked the presiding officers of the ATCs in the province to inform his office regarding requirements of funds and other arrangements to be made by the home department in the ATCs to ensure in-camera trials of rape cases.
The registrar explained that the arrangements for conducting in-camera trial in the cases related to sexual offences in the ATCs were being made in compliance with directives issued by the Sindh High Court on a petition filed by three gang-rape victims seeking implementation on the Supreme Court’s guidelines for reforms in investigation into cases of sexual assault on women.
Mr Khoso said initially one antiterrorism court, out of 18 in Karachi, would be made a model court by equipping it with all necessary arrangements, including facility of videoconferencing, screens for victims and witnesses so that they would not face the accused persons in the courtroom.
There were 16 rape cases pending before the ATCs in Sindh, in which 43 persons were accused, according to a report submitted by the ATCs’ registrar before the Sindh High Court in January 2019.
It further stated the DNA tests in 10 cases had been conducted while statements under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code had been recorded in five cases.
But trials in only five cases were being conducted in-camera, whereas in one case only screens or other arrangements had been made so that the victims and vulnerable witnesses may not face the accused persons, it had revealed.
Therefore, a two-judge bench, in its January 31 order, had directed the provincial authorities concerned to ensure that trials in the rape cases were conducted in-camera and after the regular court hours.
The court had further told them to ensure that during a rape trial, screens or other arrangements should be made so that the victims and vulnerable witnesses do not have to face the accused persons.
Furthermore, the high court had also directed them to ensure that the evidence of rape victims should be recorded appropriately through videoconferencing so that the victims, particularly juvenile victims, do not need to be present in court.