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Sclerotic Criminal Justice System of Pakistan

Sclerotic Criminal Justice System of Pakistan

On Need for Reforms

William E. Gladstone once famously said, “Justice delayed is justice denied”. He actually meant that if dispensation takes so long, it is basically a travesty of justice; for this delay disgraces the court, degrades the parties and demeans the departments concerned. The clouds of uncertainty and misery remain hovering for years, carrying along the social and economic insecurities, and judicial silence upon this adds fuel to the fire of injuries and desperation. The criminal justice system of a country is, thus, supposed to fairly prosecute the lawbreakers so as to ensure the safety of the law-abiding citizens and hence to curb the criminal activities in a society.

Replete with inordinate delays, the criminal justice system of Pakistan is unresponsive and in disarray. When a person is, rightly or wrongly, nominated in a case, it sometimes takes almost a lifetime to face the court proceedings and get convicted or exonerated, as the case may be. This systemic rigmarole consumes so much time that an accused — might be an innocent one — is seen by the public as a criminal, in sheer violation of the principle that a person is considered innocent unless proven guilty. In the meantime, he may lose his social and economic status; unfortunately, forever.

Such a person is denied even his basic human right enshrined in Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reads: “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.”

In a recent piece in a prestigious daily, Ms Ailia Zehra also subscribes to this stance when she writes: “Pakistan’s criminal justice system has long been blamed for failing to deliver justice to the weaker groups and lacking the capacity to ensure fair trials … There have been a number of cases in the recent past where citizens held under criminal charges for years were later found not guilty.”

The case of Asia Bibi vindicates this viewpoint because if the protests in the aftermath of Asia’s acquittal cannot be justified, the performance of criminal justice system is not glorifiable either. Her trial that lingered on for 10 long years as well as the verdicts delivered by trial court and the Lahore High Court made her a blasphemer in the eyes of many and, thus, the latest verdict sent shock waves across Pakistan, and caused a virtual lockdown of the country for many days.

Read More: The Woes of Criminal Justice System in Pakistan


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