A general view of the Pakistan's Supreme Court is pictured in Islamabad on April 6, 2022. - Pakistan President Arif Alvi told the country's election commission on April 6 to fix a date for a new national ballot, as the supreme court adjourned a hearing into the legality of political manoeuvres that led to parliament being dissolved. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP)

SC finds flaws in police investigation techniques

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on 26 April 2024 emphasised the need for making concerted efforts on part of the police force to shift its investigation techniques by introducing and relying on forensic science and accordingly train specialised officers in this field.

“The cornerstone of criminal justice system is the effective functionality of the investigating agency and prosecution since a faulty investigative process will continuously dampen trust and confidence in the criminal justice system,” observed Justice Ayesha A. Malik in a judgement she wrote.

Justice Malik was a member of a three-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, which had taken up an appeal by Mohammad Ramzan against the July 4, 2013 Lahore High Court order acquitting Khizar Hayat of murder charges by not confirming the death sentence awarded to the accused.

On April 28, 2009, then Khushab additional sessions judge had awarded death sentence to Khizar Hayat for murdering Mohammad Hayat. The accused challenged his conviction and got acquittal by the high court.

“Time has come for the investigation agency to recognise inherent flaws and concerns in its methodology and it needs to work towards specialising its investigative functions by separating the same from other police duties,” emphasised Justice Malik in her judgement.

She observed that the entire case of the prosecution relied on the ocular accounts which were fraught with material contradictions uncorroborated by available evidence. Moreover, she said, the presence of witnesses at the crime scene was highly doubtful and questionable.

The principle of fair trial and due process under Article 10A of the Constitution, Justice Malik emphasised, specifically mandated that the accused be equitably treated, investigated and prosecuted in accordance with the law.

“But in the case at hand, it was revealed that the entire prosecution evidence was marred by inherent improbabilities and material defects, aside from concerns about the credibility of the witnesses,” the judgement regretted.

“It is the duty of the prosecution to establish the guilt against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt,” it said, adding that the facts and circumstances of the present case clearly cast a shadow of doubt on the prosecution’s case, which had failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, which entitled him to the presumption of innocence by law.

“It is essential to emphasise the importance of forensic science in the criminal justice system,” the judgement said, adding that forensic dealt with ‘the application of scientific techniques to provide objective, circumstantial evidence’.

“Forensic is a science ‘of interest to the legal system’ whose objective is to ascertain what happened in the recent past. Forensic science means nothing more than the science which is used in the courts of law for the purposes of detection and prosecution of crime,” the judgement recalled.

“This science plays a significant role in the criminal justice system by providing data that can be used to assess the degree of guilt of a suspect.”

In the present case, the judgement said, the prosecution had not established the motive, adding that the high court’s view was correct in which it stated that in the absence of any corroborating evidence, it did not appear to be a sound and reasonable motive as stated by the prosecution for the commission of the offence.

The apex court dismissed the present criminal petition with an observation that the findings rendered by the LHC did not suffer from any flaw or error.

Acknowledgement: Published in Daily Dawn, April 27th, 2024

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