CJ calls for witness protection programme


ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has emphasised the need for a witness protection programme, especially for heinous cases like sectarian killings and terrorism. Addressing the opening ceremony of the new judicial year (2013-14) at the Supreme Court on Monday, he bemoaned the dearth of qualified and competent investigation officers (IO) of the police force and said negligence on part of the investigating agency was affecting the prosecution’s cases.The chief justice highlighted the need of improving the quality of investigation by educating investigators about the current laws but regretted that heavy workload on each IO was one of the causes of deterioration in the standard of investigation.

He said that in cases of heinous crimes, especially terrorist and sectarian offences, witnesses hesitated to come forward to testify against the accused because there was no protection for them. It also demoralised the prosecution and investigating agencies, as well as the society.

MISSING PERSONS: The chief justice regretted the absence of a proper government policy to ensure compliance with constitutional safeguards in handling the issue of the missing persons that had been pending for long.

“The court has made every effort to ensure that all the missing persons are accounted for; but if they are involved in the commission of any offence, a proper FIR should be lodged and they should be prosecuted and punished, if found guilty,” he said.

“But if they are innocent and there is no evidence or material against them, then their detention or confinement is patently illegal and unconstitutional.” It is one of the onerous duties of the court to ensure full and complete compliance of constitutional safeguards, including the right to life, liberty, security and safeguard against arrest or detention and freedom of speech and movement.

The chief justice reiterated that the courts always respected and supported democratic institutions, elected officials and public functionaries in fully performing their functions, which was necessary for good governance and socio-economic and political development.

“However, the judges of the superior judiciary are under a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution, and in the performance of this onerous duty, they are sometimes constrained to adjudicate upon the actions of other authorities of the state, not because they arrogate to themselves any claim of superiority or infallibility but because the constitution itself charges them with this necessary function in the interest of national cohesion and stability.”

He said anti-terrorism courts were not functioning properly in Sindh due to non-appointment of presiding officers despite recommendations of the chief justice of the high court. Thus, backlog increased and cases were unnecessarily prolonged.

“Consequently, the law and order situation deteriorated and the people were facing great difficulty.”

JURISDICTION: Referring to suo motu cases under Article 184(3) of the constitution, he said the framers of the constitution had conferred extraordinary jurisdiction on the Supreme Court. They were conscious of the prevailing conditions in the country and the suffering and agony of persons who suffered a wrong or injury but had no access to justice.

“On my part, I am fully satisfied that this court has exercised its jurisdiction to the full for the enforcement of fundamental rights in putting an end to acts of oppression, tyranny, exploitation, corruption and misuse or abuse of authority for personal benefit, besides bringing about transparency and accountability in the system. In doing so, the court has not extended any favour to anyone. It has rather discharged a constitutional obligation.”

The vice chairman of Pakistan Bar Council Qalbe Hassan said the legal fraternity and the public at large had not appreciated the Supreme Court’s July 24 verdict of advancing the date for the presidential elections. He said an address of the chief justice to the returning officers and deputy returning officers before the general elections had also provided an excuse to some political parties and their leaders to criticise the judiciary.

He said contempt cases, especially concerning politics or politicians, should be avoided.

He also suggested that frequent exercise of suo motu jurisdiction should be avoided.

The PBC leader criticised some recent appointments of judges in the superior judiciary and expressed the hope that the Judicial Commission would adopt an amendment to the procedure proposed by the council.

The Supreme Court Bar Association’s president Asrarul Haq criticised a resolution passed by some bars regarding sending a reference to the Supreme Judicial Council against the members of a Supreme Court bench.