No headway in 150 graft cases against govt officials
KARACHI, Feb 5: The timely disposal of around 150 graft cases against public servants hangs in the balance as the special provincial anti-corruption court has been lying vacant for around two months following the expiry of the tenure of the previous judge, it emerged on Tuesday.
The provincial government has set up the lone special anti-corruption court in Sindh for speedy trial of bribery and corruption cases against public servants.
Around 150 cases were awaiting decision when the two-year tenure of Judge Rashida Asad as the presiding officer of the special anti-corruption court, set up in Karachi, came to an end on Dec 10, 2012 and since then the court has been lying vacant.
Court sources said that it was the responsibility of the provincial law department to move a summary to the high court concerned for the appointment of a district and sessions judge to the provincial anti-corruption court. However, so far no notification regarding the filling of the important slot has been issued.
An apparent delay on the part of authorities concerned to make immediate efforts for the appointment of a judicial officer in the special anti-corruption court not only put the speedy disposal of the graft cases at stake, but might also be damaging for the prosecution side.
It is generally believed that a delay in trial almost always benefits the accused side and damages the case of the prosecution.
Over 5,000 complaints pending for want of approval
Thousands of complaints and inquiries are pending before the anti-corruption establishment (ACE) for want of ‘approval’ of competent authorities
Sources said that around 5,000 complaints and inquiries were pending as the anti-corruption committees (ACC-I & ACC-II) apparently have little time to take up these inquiries and complaints to grant approval for registration of cases, which would lead to trial.
The ACC-I, headed by the chief secretary, gives approval or otherwise for registration of graft cases against officials of grade 17 and above and the ACC-II, headed by the chairman of the enquiries and anti-corruption establishment, deals with the cases of officers of grade 16 and below.
In a recent decision, the previous judge of the provincial anti-corruption court had questioned the functions of the ACCs, as the bodies were apparently extending undue favour to influential government functionaries and private persons.
The court questioned the sanctioning authority of the ACCs in graft cases and ruled that the provisions of grant of sanction before the commencing of trial was seemed to be discriminatory.The court further said that the objective of Section 197 of the criminal procedure code was to afford protection to public servants against unjustified and unnecessary harassment against frivolous prosecution, but apparently these provisions of grant of sanction before the commencement of trial of an accused was discriminatory and these provisions looked to be arbitrary and archaic. Such provisions were also assailed before the Federal Shariat Court and it had directed the authorities to amend the Pakistan Criminal Law Amendment Act 1958 and Section 197 of the CrPC by Jan 1990 failing which these provisions were ceased to have effect, it added.
The judge wrote in her order that the finding was challenged, but a five-member bench of the same court upheld the laid down law and the federation filed a review petition which was also dismissed in 2004 and the court extended a period for making amendments up to March 2005 failing which these provisions will cease to have effect.
The trial court said that in the light of the Shariat Court orders, it was no more necessary to have ‘sanction’ before the commencement of the trial.
The court further ruled that the role of the ACCs was already extravagant as Rule 8 of the Sindh Enquiries and Anti-Corruption Rules 1993 said that no preliminary enquiry shall be initiated by an officer of the ACE against any public servant without the prior approval of the competent authority and further an approval is again required from the competent authority (ACC-I & ACC-II) before lodging an FIR as per Rule 11(2) of the same Rule.