Police, Prosecution and Forensic Reforms

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Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmad Khokhar

The improvement in investigation of criminal cases cannot be achieved without establishing the specialized units and in the absence of modern technology

There is no second thought that no country can succeed and progress without an effective and transparent criminal justice system. The police and prosecution are important institutions and integral part of any successful criminal justice system along with using modern technology and forensic science methods anywhere in the world. However, despite the constitution and having reports of many commissions made for improving working in police prosecution and forensic science, the results of these efforts and reforms have not reached so far to the common man in Pakistan and to the criminal justice system in Pakistan. There are many factors behind these phenomena i.e. lack of political will, outdated laws, corruption, colonial mindset, unbridled discretion, weak accountability, institutional corruption and lack of advanced technology based training and motivation for delivering public service. Thus, with this backdrop, Pakistan is considered one of the lowest countries ranking in terms of policing, public perception, public service delivery, investigation and prosecution. The “Thana culture” in Pakistan is odious because of the excessive use or abuse of the registration of case and power of arrest.
The political and executive interference is also a huge challenge in legal and smooth functioning of police department in Pakistan, which has shattered the confidence of police and almost destroyed its functions towards crime detection, investigation and public service delivery. There is no doubt that there is an urgent need of coherence time bound reforms through new legislation with strong implementation mechanisms in areas of the criminal justice system i.e. the judiciary, prosecution, and the police are essential, imperative according to the prevailing environments of the country.
The police culture in Pakistan continues to be based on the Police Act of 1861, which was introduced subsequent to the 1857 events. To date, as many as 27 commissions have submitted their recommendations, these included more than six foreign police commissions requested by the government of Pakistan. The police culture that developed under the Police Act of 1861 continues to be the dominant culture because it remained the police law between 1861 and 2002 i.e. 140 years when a new law namely the Police Order 2002 was introduced.
The Police Act 1861 was replaced with the Police Order, 2002, which introduced fundamental changes based on division of police along functional lines, introduction of manifold public accountability measures and with emphasis on public service delivery. However, authority and autonomy has been given to police under Police Order, 2002 but many provisions relating to public service delivery, modern policing and public oversight bodies have not been implemented, which are as well salient features of Police Order, 2002. Police in Pakistan is far behind relating to technology based investigation, crime detection, service delivery, public perception and tenure of police personnel.
Though the Police Order 2002 has brought fundamental changes within the police and even they have obtained a lot of benefits in terms of autonomy, budget and recruitment. However, the federal and provincial governments and police as a department did not take other due steps which required for improving the police department in public service delivery, perception and establishing public oversight mechanism. This non-implementation needs to be re-evaluated now in larger public interest by federal and provincial legislatures that why the police, despite all autonomy and resources, have failed to come up to public expectations/confidence and for improving the conditions of rule of law. There is no cavil in a given situation, Police Order, 2002 can provide results for better policing and accountability in Pakistan but there is need to implement all its provisions in letter and spirit.
The provisions of Section 154 Cr.P.C is mandatory in nature and the concerned police station has no discretion or mandate to refuse the registration of FIR in law if the information provided relates to commission of cognizable offense, but this has been a great problem for registration of case the public for decades.
The provisions of Sec. 154 Cr.P.C continue to be misused and flouted and important court timing for resolving this legal provision is being spent with no reasons. The directions of Justice of Peace relating to misconduct and negligence or actions against defaulting police officers in this regard are rarely implemented. This issue can be addressed by legally empowered external agencies for registration of cases without delay to area magistrate, Justice of peace like District Public Safety & Police Complaints Commissions and Provincial Police Complaints Authorities established under Police Order, 2002. Thus there is a need to change the composition to ensure immediate functioning of District Public Safety & Police Complaints Commissions as the provincial police complaints authorities are already established under Police Order, 2002. The enhanced evaluation and monitoring mechanism for Police can also improve the public service delivery.
The role of magistrate in the investigation of crime is evident from Chapter XIV of Criminal Procedure Code, 1898. The Magistrate conducts identification parades and records statements and confessions vide Section 164 Cr.P.C. Section 159 Cr.P.C. also empowers the magistrate to conduct a preliminary inquiry when a report of a cognizable case is received by him. The magistrate is also a justice of the peace and can give directions to Police, thus this institution must actively perform according to the legal mandate. The role of District Criminal Justice Coordination Committee under the chair of District & Session judge is also very important under Police Order, 2002.
The improvement in investigation of criminal cases cannot be achieved without establishing the specialized units and in the absence of modern technology. The existing archaic methods and techniques perpetuated public dissatisfaction with the justice system; therefore it is imperative to replace the obsolete mechanism with modern techniques and solutions. The issue of the Police budget and its direct allocation to police stations is very important for efficiency and operation service delivery. Basic infrastructure of Police stations has to be improved and jurisdiction to head the police station has to be redesigned. Present sanctioned strength at all levels has to be revisited and re-evaluated according to the population, crime statistics and based on 8 hour shifts. Independent prosecution service is also very important for any criminal justice system, thus there is a need to establish and ensure an independent prosecution service by inducting good legal professionals with their clear role relating to prosecution and investigation. Arrest procedures and laws needs to be revisited in order to ensure transparency and minimize the abuse of powers with reference to Cr.P.C, for controlling Police excess.
The cognizable offenses should be redefined; as arrest-able, non arrest-able, and the arrest should only be made when police bring sufficient material on record and arrest should be made with the approval of prosecution agency. It is also essential for successful criminal trials and to bring culprits under the law that the investigators and prosecutors should have good coordination at all levels of investigation and during trials to ensure that there are no missing links which may give any advantage to the culprits. The Forensic science implementation mechanism can play an important role as a whole in the Criminal Justice System, thus there is a need to establish an independent National Forensic Science Authority. The technological solutions should also be introduced on urgent basis i.e. monitoring of reporting rooms, prisons records, and investigation rooms in police stations through cameras, FIR and Police Station Management System, Foreigner Registration System, Personnel Management System, Vehicles Management System and Inventory Management, MIS for Police operational activities, Crime Diary and computerization of other 26 police stations manual registers in order to improve transparency and efficiency. All records to be automated in one year at all police stations for better policing.