September 16th, 2020
By Rehan Piracha
PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has called for the constitution of a special court to try the suspects of the Lahore gangrape case but according to senior lawyers such emotional and cosmetic moves would not help in deterring heinous crimes against women and children in the country.
Voicing calls for an effective law to reduce the rising number of child abuse cases, the PML-Q chief has pledged his party’s support to Prime Minister Imran Khan for enacting the legislation in parliament. Shujaat Hussain has asked the premier to request the High Court to constitute special courts for hearing grave cases, adding that the special courts could be bound to decide a case in a week. According to Shujaat Hussain, ‘timely decisions’ will end fear and harassment among the citizens.
Who can order the constitution of a special court?
Speaking to Voicepk.net, former senator Kamila Ali Agha of PML-Q says special courts can be set up by executive order of the federal government and can be advantageous in dispensing speedy justice to victims. Agha says the suggestion of his party chief of binding special courts to decide cases within a week is realistic, adding he has seen local courts give verdicts after three days of hearing in heinous crimes cases. He also cited the example of Saudia Arabia where minor offenders are dealt with punishments within a day and murder cases are disposed of within three days.
Agha says the delay in court cases is caused mostly by loopholes in the police investigation and ill-prepared prosecution.
“The courts are bound to decide murder cases within 30 days under the criminal procedure code,” he explains. However, police do not submit a complete challan under the stipulated 15 days, he adds, calling for legislation to stipulate timeframes for completion of investigations in heinous crimes cases.
‘Special court waste of resources’
However, Abid Saqi, vice chairman of Pakistan Bar Council, calls the suggestion of special courts a mere waste of resources. There is no need for a parallel mechanism to handle the Lahore motorway gangrape and other cases of heinous crimes against women and children, he says. He pointed out that previous instances of the constitution of special courts had not been effective in deterring or reducing the number of cases. “The perpetrators should be tried under existing laws and courts,” he adds. “Calls for speedy justice to victims of heinous crimes should not undermine the due process of law, and a week’s time frame to decide a case is not realistic.”
In the opinion of Azam Nazir Tarar, Chairman of the executive committee of the PBC, public hangings or the constitution of special courts will not do much to deter offenders from committing heinous crimes against women and children in Pakistan. Tarar says people in this society are emotional and our leaders are in the habit of doling out quick-fix solutions in order to sway public opinion in their favor.
“Government leaders want themselves to be seen as champions of justice in first the Zainab case and now the Lahore gangrape victim,” he adds. In Zia-ul-Haq’s time, the punishment for an attack on a woman’s modesty was increased to life imprisonment following a public outcry over a woman being paraded naked in a bazaar, he recalls.
“The lawmakers had no inkling how the provision would be misused till present-day for settling scores through fake cases,” he points out.
According to Tarar, the criminal justice system in the country has been breaking down for a long time. “The public perception is that you can get away with anything in our courts,” he adds. “Nothing will change till major reforms are undertaken in the judicial system. The government is sitting idle on dozens of dossiers for judicial reforms for decades.”