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Prosecution system’s revamping on the cards

Jan 06, 2014

The government is seriously contemplating taking the parliamentarians into confidence to start working on the direly needed legislation for defining the role of a prosecutor in the Code of Criminal Procedure, The News has learnt on good authority.
Talking to The News, the sources entrusted with the task of strengthening and refining the prosecution system by Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, have revealed that although the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) clearly defines the role of police and judges, it doesn’t define the role of a prosecutor. Explaining this factor, the sources said that in 1992, Section 173 of CrPC, which is the gateway for a case to enter judicial process from administrative criminal process, was amended just to add the name of the prosecutor without affirmatively defining his role.

The absence of a clearly defined or redefined role in the country’s top legal code forms an impediment in the effective functioning of the public prosecution system although the work undertaken by the public prosecutors is regarded as very crucial in the criminal justice system. Even in the overall prevailing milieu, there can be no two opinions about making the prosecutor’s role more effective through the provision of necessary environment, training and through the recognition of the prosecutor’s role in the dispensation of justice.

During the incumbency of former governments, very little attention was given to this pivotal factor despite the facts that superior courts and those in middle and lower tiers have been pressing upon the streamlining of prosecution system.

According to the sources, the revamping of prosecution system, with special reference to curbing organized crime and militancy, is one of the top priorities of the government, Punjab administration taking the lead in this area that is formulating a better strategy to retain the best legal professionals. In equal focus is the less developed service structure, inadequate fringe benefits as well as lower remuneration of public prosecutors, compared with which other stakeholders of criminal justice system like police and judiciary are drawing much higher emoluments. These conditions impact the prosecutors’ functioning negatively, particularly due to the financial pressures that they have to face in the days of high inflation.

One important and major step, taken by the Punjab Government that has received countrywide appreciation among the legal and intelligentsia circles, is the intensive capacity-building of public prosecutors. In the area of anti-terrorism initiatives, the training of prosecutors for appointment in anti-Terrorism Courts will conclude on 18th of the current month in the Training Centre for Professional Development of Prosecutors in MPDD (Management and Professional Development Department) under the project titled ‘Counter Terrorism Associated Prosecution Reform Initiative’.

Besides their court duties, these well-trained prosecutors will also be associated with law-enforcement agencies’ Joint Investigation Teams to provide legal guidance and consultation which will improve investigation standards. This year, 108 prosecutors were given induction training and 100 prosecutors were given expert training in the MPDD Training Centre. And now, a separate attached department for training is being planned to be established in THE Public Prosecution Department.

The sources were then asked as to what was the likelihood of guaranteed convictions of incorrigible criminals after the so-called improvement in the public prosecution system? The reply was: “During the first 11 months of 2013, number of total cases decided was 64,438, out of which in 58,504 cases, the accused were convicted and in 5,934 cases, the accused were acquitted; therefore, the conviction rate is 91%. As many as 518 accused were sentenced to death, 383 to life imprisonment and 684 were awarded imprisonment above seven years.”

The sources further told The News that the mission of Punjab administration’s Prosecution Wing was ‘quest for justice’, for which effective and independent prosecution was being treated as one of the top priorities.

Elaborating one of these points, the sources said: “True independence of prosecution not only facilitates the criminal justice system to deal with the innocent victims of false accusations justly and timely but also decreases the undue burden on the judiciary for improving its capacity to handle case load and to focus on gravity of cases. It is, therefore, expedient that suitable amendments to procedural laws as well as prosecution act be made to redefine the role of a prosecutor that is actually harmonious with an independent spirit of prosecution.”

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