The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday held investigating agencies, prosecutors, area magistrates, trial courts, district and sessions judges, Superintendents of Prisons and Criminal Justice Coordination Committees responsible for the miscarriage of justice in a large number of cases.
Justice Ali Zia Bajwa announced the verdict on a bail petition filed by Muhammad Razzaq, an accused in a murder case, who had been behind the bars for more than two years without submission of charge sheet against him due to the inefficiency of the stakeholders, including investigating agencies, prosecutors, area magistrates, trial courts, district and sessions judges.
“The non-submission of the investigation reports under Section 173 Cr.P.C. due to inefficiency and indifference on the part of investigating agencies, prosecutors, area magistrates, trial courts, district and sessions judges, superintendents of Prisons and Criminal Justice Coordination Committees is resulting in a complete miscarriage of justice in a large number of cases, therefore, it shall be appropriate to issue directions to the concerned to ensure strict adherence to the relevant provisions of law and guidance provided by the apex court,” read a 16-page judgment.
Justice Bajwa allowed bail to Muhammad Razzaq and directed him to deposit a surety bond of Rs200,000. The accused was arrested in connection with the murder of Muhammad Hassan Bhatti in the Iqbal Town police precinct. However, some shocking facts came to the knowledge of the court in the case as the incident took place on March 13, 2020 while the crime report was lodged on March 14, 2020, and petitioner Muhammad Razzaq was arrested in the case on March 15, 2020 and after the completion of physical remand, he was sent to judicial lockup on March 27, 2020 but startlingly, charge sheet could not reach the trial court till April 21, 2022 and the petitioner was formally indicted on June 18, 2022-after two years and three months of his arrest.
Justice Bajwa held, “It is a classic textbook case of failure of our criminal justice system and flagrant violations of the law by its main stakeholders resulting in a complete miscarriage of justice.” The judge expressed serious concerns over inefficiency and indifferences among all the stakeholders of the justice system including investigating agencies, prosecution, area magistrates, trial courts, criminal justice coordination committees and superintendents of prisons, holding that they are some of the key players in the criminal justice system and are bound to ensure the timely submission of police reports under Section 173 Cr.P.C.
The court ruled that the police report under Section 173 of Cr.P.C would be filed regarding the result of the investigation with the area magistrate within three days after the expiration of 14 days. While referring to the case of Muhammad Razzaq that was registered two and half years ago with Iqbal Town police station, Justice Bajwa stated, “It seems that all the state functionaries responsible for the timely submission of investigation reports were in deep slumber and completely neglected their mandatory statutory duties. The above state of affairs also exposed the ineffective mechanism of internal accountability of police and prosecution departments”.
During the proceedings, a surprising fact came to the limelight when Lahore Camp Jail Superintendent Jail submitted a report before the court, revealing some shocking numerical figures that on December 17, 2020 and on January 19, 2021 the District Public Prosecutor, Lahore as well as learned District and Sessions Judge, Lahore were sent the lists of 2,614 and 2,865 under-trial prisoners respectively, who were confined in that jail for more than three months for submission of investigation reports in the courts concerned.
Responding to a court query about the number of total under-trial prisoners in his jail, the Camp Jail Superintendent said that “approximately 3,900 under-trial prisoners are detained in jail under his supervision”. The court stated that “it means that in more than 70% of the cases investigation reports were not submitted before the trial courts in sheer violation of Section 173 Cr.P.C. The number of cases in which accused persons were granted bail would make this figure even worse and violative of the right to a fair trial as ensured under Article 10A of the Constitution,”.
The court directed the Punjab Secretary prosecution to take up the matter immediately and conclude the action in accordance with the law and directed him to submit a report through the LHC Deputy Registrar (Judicial) for perusal in the chamber. The court also directed the Punjab Secretary Prosecution to take cognizance of the ineffectiveness and the poor performance of the Punjab Criminal Prosecution Service Inspectorate and to ensure that The Punjab Criminal Prosecution Service Inspectorate Act, 2018 is implemented in its true letter and spirit for effective internal accountability of delinquents.