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The government of Pakistan amended the Civil and Criminal Law to bring reforms in Justice System

Home /The government of Pakistan amended the Civil and Criminal Law to bring reforms in Justice System

The government of Pakistan amended the Civil and Criminal Law to bring reforms in Justice System

government of Pakistan amended the Civil and Criminal Law


Among the amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the Evidence Law (Qanoon-i-Shahadat), and the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the law ministry envisions a nine-month deadline for the completion of criminal trials; the introduction of plea bargaining; and the use of modern investigative techniques.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday (Jan 27, 2022) that the state is responsible for ensuring justice is administered effectively by reforming the civil and criminal procedure codes.

Speaking at an event in Islamabad on Criminal Law and Justice Reforms, the prime minister said the amendments will bring a revolution to the criminal justice system and simplify the process for the average citizen.

“This is a defining moment in the history of the country,” he said, praising Law Minister Farogh Naseem and his team for their work on the reforms.

The prime minister announced that for the first time, the government was making improvements to the way justice was administered following the laws introduced during British rule. 

Legal reforms

Law Minister Farogh Naseem said the Code of Criminal Procedure was outdated and over 700 amendments have been introduced to overhaul the current legal system.

He said that reforms such as the creation of an independent prosecution service, a forensic laboratory, and prison rules were significant. The law required the distribution of budget to police stations to cover the costs of investigations, along with debuting a sub-inspector at each station with a bachelor’s degree, he said. If a case is not decided within nine months, the trial judge will be answerable before a high court.Any documents, including identity cards, bank accounts, etc, of an absconder, could be frozen by the court.

To ensure accuracy and expeditious case processing, he urged lawyers to support electronic recording of witnesses in any language. According to him, the maker of the video would not be required to appear as a witness in cases of personal offenses such as murder or rape. Specifically, he advocated for civil law reforms with an effective role for the judiciary, prosecutors, and investigators. Maleeka Bokhari, Parliamentary Secretary for Law, said that the PTI government amended the criminal procedure code over 700 times and ensured prompt justice.

The reforms will provide support to the poor seeking justice, she said, since powerful people were taking advantage of the loopholes in the law for decades.

Salient features of the amendment:

In its draft, the ministry proposed a nine-month deadline for criminal trials, requiring the trial court to inform the high court if it is unable to meet the deadline.

Additionally, it proposes the imposition of a Rs1 million fine for frivolous complaints, as well as the introduction of plea bargains to reduce the judicial backlog. However, this option will not be available for offenses resulting in death or life imprisonment. Likewise, it cannot be invoked for crimes related to women, children, and socio-economic issues.

In the draft, the trial judge will not intervene in any cases of inadmissible evidence or observe a witness’ demeanor, except in the event of an inadmissible testimony. Also, the recording should be transcribed verbatim in the language in which the evidence is uttered, followed by an English translation.

The goal of restructuring the decades-old police system is to redefine what it means to be an ‘officer in charge of the police station.’ They should be at least a sub-inspector with a bachelor’s degree. SHOs should at least be assistant superintendents in major police stations with a high caseload. A person’s CNIC as well as any other documents issued by Nadra, as well as passports, bank cards, and bank accounts, can be blocked if he absconds. However, if a proclaimed offender appears in court, the court can order his documentation to be unblocked.

The time frame within which investigations must be completed and a challan issued has also been extended from 15 to 45 days.

Court approval is required for the location of the video conferencing as well as detailed protocols for recording evidence via video links.

Both in-country and out-of-country witnesses may record evidence through video links. In the latter case, a commission would be issued to a court or judge where Pakistan has reciprocal arrangements, and to the Pakistan embassy or high commission in those cases where reciprocity is not available.

Key Points from the Civil and Criminal Law (amended)

  • Criminal trials must be completed by the court within 9 months, and appeals are decided within 6 months.
  • Trial courts are responsible for prescribing the schedule for case management.
  • Federal or provincial governments, depending on the situation, may prescribe rules for electronic filing of FIR for the commission of cognizable offenses, inquiries, or investigations.
  • The provincial governments must set up police control rooms in every district and at every level.
  • A proposed change would impose a block on a suspect’s CNIC, any other ID issued by NADRA, passport, credit cards, and bank account if he or she absconds. A court could order de-blocking if the proclaimed offender appears in court.
  • First information related to cognizable and non-cognizable cases must first be entered into a separate register, after which cognizable cases will follow separate paths through section 154 (for cognizable cases) and section 155 (for non-cognizable cases). As a result, no information would be lost before reaching a police station.
  • An audio/video recording of a 161 statement is required under the new procedure. If such a recording cannot be made, the police officer will record the reason in writing. Getting an audio/video recording of a 161 statement does not necessarily make it admissible per se, but it can be used to contradict a witness or improve their testimony.
  • An investigation must be completed within 45 days.
  • It is necessary for the police to submit a report of the investigation to the prosecutor, who may return it to the police for completion of documentation, exploration of various avenues, or explanation of procedures for collecting and recording evidence.
  • The monthly progress report is to be submitted to the appropriate high court and copies will be shared with the secretary of the Ministry of Law and Justice, the provincial secretaries of the prosecution department, the prosecutor general, and the advocate general. If the trial does not conclude within 9 months, the trial court will provide an explanation.
  • The high court may initiate or direct the commencement of appropriate disciplinary proceedings against the presiding officer of the court or any of the court’s functionaries if it believes the delay in the disposal of the trial is due to their actions.
  • Criminal trials may not be adjourned for more than 3 days unless the trial court records the reasons for the adjournment.
  • In all cases, the trial judge will not interject, except in the case of inadmissible evidence or noting the demeanor.
  • It is imperative that the audio/video recording is transcribed verbatim in the language in which the evidence is uttered and translated into English.
  • The testimony of a witness shall be recorded via video link if it is not feasible or practical for the witness to attend the court in person as required by section 353 of the CrPC.
  • It may be necessary for the federal government to issue guidelines from time to time in order to issue or impose sentences.
  • It is being proposed to devise a comprehensive mechanism for the process of arrest whereby the police officer making the arrest shall inform the person arrested of the grounds for the arrest, prepare a memorandum of arrest, notify the family of the arrestee’s whereabouts, let him engage a lawyer of his choice, conduct his medical examination and when a female is arrested, conduct the examination under the supervision of a female medical officer.
  • The Court has introduced a new concept of plea bargaining that will reduce the backlog and allow the Court to focus on the remaining cases.
  • A plea bargain will not be available for crimes involving death, life, or a sentence exceeding 7 years.
  • Plea bargains will also not be applicable to crimes involving women, children, and socioeconomic conditions.
  • To preserve peace and safety, a new section 144A is proposed that prohibits carrying weapons during processions, mass drills, and mass training.

Amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860

  • There has been an increase in punishments for different crimes.
  • The law has been amended to include the stalking of women as an offense.

Amendments in the Qanun-e-Shahadat, 1984

  • Modern technology allows the court to admit evidence obtained or made available through these methods.
  • Regarding crimes against persons, electronic audio/video evidence, including e-mails, faxes, text messages, etc., will be admissible per se.
  • There have been new laws passed establishing the Prosecution Service and the Forensic Science Agency in Islamabad.

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