Islamabad: The Hon Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry chaired a high level meeting at the Supreme Court Branch Registry, Karachi to consider the performance of Anti-Terrorism Courts in the province of Sindh and the role of prosecution and investigation agencies in quick disposal of cases. He expressed dissatisfaction over the slow disposal in the Anti-Terrorism Courts, the delay in submission of Challans and the frequent adjournments being sought and granted to the prosecuting and Defence Counsel. The Chief Justice observed that as per the judgment in the Sheikh Liaqat Hussain case, the Supreme Court set up a mechanism for monitoring the performance of the Anti-Terrorism Courts to quickly decide such cases. The mechanism is meant to remove handicaps or irritants in the way of expeditious disposal of cases. The Chief Justice added that the menace of terrorism also came up for consideration before the Five Members Bench in the Suo Motu Case regarding law and order situation in Karachi and the Court issued categorical directions to the Provincial Police as well as DG, Rangers for apprehending the culprits and timely investigation in the cases and their effective prosecution, so that those found guilty are sent behind the bar. The Chief Justice exhorted the security agencies to follow the direction given by the Court in the Karachi violence case to the effect that there must not be any “no go area”, if any such area is found or credibly reported, the Police and Rangers shall take strong and decisive action to eliminate it, and if necessary, the DG, Rangers shall personally lead the operation in such areas. The Court Order had further stated that the law enforcement operations shall be carried out across the board and without any pressure or influence from any quarters.
2. The Chief Justice, High Court of Sindh and the Judge Incharge of Anti-Terrorism Courts presented facts and figures in respect of the Anti-Terrorism Courts. The figure indicates that there are 1124 Anti-Terrorism cases pending before the 11 Anti-Terrorism Courts in the province of Sindh out of which some 323 cases are pending in Karachi alone. The Judge Incharge of Anti-Terrorism Courts assured the meeting that now more ATC Judges have been appointed and these courts have become functional, the disposal figure would increase.
3. During the course of discussion, it was pointed out that the Anti-Terrorism Courts are deciding cases but the deterrent fact of law is missing on account of pending mercy petitions of the convicts by the Executive. It was reported that since the year 1998 some 30 convicts under the Anti-Terrorism Act and 4 convicts under the ordinary laws, are awaiting execution. On account of this unusual delay in execution, the deterrent effect of the law is missing. The Attorney General for Pakistan undertook to look into the matter and expeditiously decide the mercy petitions, so that the course of administration of justice is not impeded. It was stressed that the ATC law is fairly stringent with provisions for time-bound decision in the ATC cases, primarily to check the incidents of Terrorism and violence by punishing the culprits and thereby creating a deterrent effect on society.
4. As per data presented by the IG, Sindh, during the five month’s period from 24th July till date a total of 240 cases were registered and 291 accused persons arrested under the ATC law. The Challans in respect of 130 cases have been submitted in courts. The meeting took notice of the reports to the effect that some influential accused persons, arrested by the Rangers and handed over to Police for investigation, were given the benefit of being charged under section 13-D of the Arms Ordinance 1965 (carrying arms without license), carrying lesser sentence, even though the provisions of the ATC law were attracted because of which, such accused persons got released on bail by the courts. The Chief Justice of Pakistan directed that such leniency is unwarranted and against the law. The IGP reported that the allegation of showing partiality and favour to an accused namely Muhammad Salim alias Choto, disciplinary proceedings have been initiated by the Government against SP Umar Khitab and other such like complaints will also be investigated. The IG, Sindh assured that the Police officers responsible for showing any favour, partiality or leniency due to political influence or otherwise would be proceeded against strictly under the law. It was observed that the Supreme Court judgment has laid to relative peace, by abolishing the “no go areas”, reducing the incidents of violence, target killings as well as street crimes, because of which life has returned to normal and businessmen activities revived. It was stressed that the Rangers and the Police must coordinate and work with full zeal and determination by strictly following the law in resisting any political or ethnic or sectarian pressure, whatsoever. The performance of Anti-Terrorism Courts must also improve with effective witness protection programme and also ensuring that the prosecution and defence lawyers regularly attend the trial, come prepared and avoid seeking adjournments. It was stressed that for effective law enforcement and maintenance of peace in Karachi, it is essential that the law enforcement agencies perform functions strictly under the law without being influenced by political or other consideration. The meeting was also attended by Mr. Justice Tariq Parvez, Supreme Court and Judge Incharge for monitoring Anti-Terrorism Courts, Mr. Justice Mushir Alam, Chief Justice, High Court of Sindh, Mr. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Judge Incharge for monitoring Anti-Terrorism Courts in the province of Sindh, Maulvi Anwar-ul-Haq, Attorney General for Pakistan, Dr. Faqir Hussain, Registrar, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr. Abdul Fattah Malik, Advocate General, Sindh, Mr. Shahadat Awan, Prosecutor General, Sindh, Lt. Gen Ijaz Ali Chaudhry, Director General, Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) and Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed Shah, Inspector General of Police, Sindh.
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Supreme Court of Pakistan
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