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Judiciary in Pakistan: Flawed judgments and fallacies plague country's fractured justice system

The judiciary in Pakistan has always been afflicted with flawed and discriminatory judgments, more than often denying justice to the lot seeking redressal for justice. In particular, the courts in Pakistan, even the high courts, earned infamy for passing verdicts on blasphemy laws hitting hapless members of the minority community — already reeling under highhandedness in a country where institutions are largely biased and fanatical — hard.

Having said this, it's equally significant to state that in a recent judgment, one Justice Asif Khosa made most apt observations in a case where one Mushtaq, a Christian scavenger (what would be called a sweeper in India) facing charges of blasphemy, was given a fair hearing. The case dates back to October 2006. Mushtaq was charged for burning the Quran. Presiding over a three-member bench, Khosa held that the prosecution failed to prove the occurrence of blasphemy beyond a reasonable doubt and the police investigation was faulty and flawed .

The judges further observed, for instance, that the matchbox produced in the lower courts was stated to be different from the one in the police records. Also, the burnt piece of holy scriptures from the Quran, used as evidence against Mushtaq, was not recovered by the Investigation Officer (IO) from the crime scene, but was rather provided by the complainant. This created suspicion over the authenticity, thus making it inadmissible in the court of law.

A file image of Pakistan Supreme Court. Reuters

A file image of Pakistan Supreme Court. Reuters

Such observations, valid at face value, serve to underline the common practice of instigating and bribing the police in Pakistan to file frivolous and baseless charges for which complaints themselves provide concocted evidence. To worsen matters, the prosecution based its arguments solely on the police investigation report and usually ignored any legal loopholes or discrepancies. The lower judiciary, in the meanwhile, due to its heavy backlogs of cases, does not spend time sifting through the evidence. The result, therefore, is a travesty of justice .

Khosa further expressed his shock at the lack of credible witnesses to the crime for which Mushtaq was convicted in the lower court. It's also worth underlining that given the legal and social constraints, no sane man will ever indulge in such a crime. According to the bench, mob justice and lynching is closely associated with the religious fervour that conveniently clouds any logic or reasoning.

One cannot ignore the fact that religious fundamentalists in Pakistan consider it their religious right to kill anyone accused of blasphemy and ordinarily, no one is allowed to defend the poor. And it's more a mockery of the judicial system .

Against this backdrop, it merits to be put on record that more than a dozen cases of mob lynching have taken place in Pakistan since the start of the year. Increasing blasphemy allegations and misuse of the law are symptoms of failed governance, and are exacerbated by Pakistan's law and order situation. Pakistan's criminal justice system ranks very low in the global context. Legal experts and human rights watchers feel there is an urgent need for drastic improvement and re-engineering. It is therefore incumbent upon more judicial officers to partake their duties with full honesty and integrity as in the case of Mushtaq discussed above. Khosa's verdict and findings were an exception. Delving deep into the evidence was not ordinary. Otherwise, trials and judgments are routinely one-sided and driven by fanaticism .

Unless the Pakistan judiciary takes recourse to fair play and real justice, it cannot match international standards let alone contest the Kulbhushan Jadhav case in the International Court of Justice. The whole world knows how Pakistani lawyers were exposed for their triviality when arguing in The Hague not so long ago .

The author is a retired IPS officer and a security analyst. He is also senior fellow with the India Police Foundation.

Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 13:24 PM

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