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Salient Features of Criminal Law Reforms

For the time in the 75-year history of the Country, Prime Minister Imran Khan on January 27, 2022 launched the much-needed Criminal Law and Justice Reforms paving the way for ensuring effective and timely delivery of justice to the common man.

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The following amendments in the Criminal Laws have been proposed by the federal government;

  • Trial in criminal case to be completed by the Courts within 9 months and appeal will be decided in 6 months.
  • The trial Court shall prescribe the case management schedule.
  • The Federal Government or the Provincial Government, as the case may be, may prescribe rules for the purposes of electronic registration of first information in respect of commission of cognizable offences, the conduct of inquiries or investigations through modern devices.
  • Police control rooms are to be made in every district and at provincial levels by the provincial governments.
  • Under the new proposal, if an accused absconds, his CNIC, any other ID issued by NADRA, passport, bank cards and bank account shall be blocked. In case the proclaimed offender appears in the Court, the Court could order the de-blocking.
  • The first information with regard to both cognizable and non-cognizable cases is to be entered into a separate register, where after the cognizable cases go through separate routes of section 154 (pertaining to cognizable cases) and section 155 (pertaining to non-cognizable cases).In this manner no information reaching a police station would be wasted away.
  • Under the new procedure, a 161 statement is to be audio/video recorded. In case such recording is not possible the police officer will record reasons in writing. Although this exercise does not make a 161 statement admissible per se, the audio/video recording could be used for the purposes of bringing about contradiction of a witness or improving his statement.
  • Investigation is to be completed within 45 days.
  • Investigation report is to be forwarded to the Prosecutor who may return the report to the police for completing the documentation omitting lacunae, exploring various avenues, or explain procedures for collection and recording of evidence/additional evidence.
  • Monthly progress report to be submitted to the concerned High Court with copies to the Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, Islamabad and the respective Provincial Secretaries of Prosecution Departments, and the Prosecutor General or the Advocate General. Explanation to be offered by the trial Court if the trial does not finish within 9 months.
  • Where the High Court is of the view that the delay in the disposal of the trial is attributable to the Presiding Officer of the Court or any of the Court’s functionaries, it shall commence or direct the commencement of appropriate disciplinary proceedings, in accordance with law, against them.
  • No criminal trial could be adjourned for more than three days unless the trial Court records the reasons for a longer date.
  • The entire testimony will be audio/video recorded, without interjection of the trial judge, except in matter of inadmissible evidence or noting the demeanour.
  • The audio/video recording is to be transcribed verbatim in the language in which the evidence is uttered followed by English translation.
  • In case it is not practicable/feasible for a witness to attend the court in person, his evidence shall be recorded through video-link dispensing the requirement to attend the Court in person under section 353 CrPC.
  • The Federal Government may, from time to time, issue guidelines for the purposes of issuing or imposing sentences.
  • An elaborate mechanism for procedure of arrest is being proposed where the Police Officer making the arrest shall inform the person arrested of grounds of arrest, prepare a memorandum of arrest, inform family of his whereabouts, allow him to engage a lawyer of his own choice, conduct his medical examination and in case of a female arrested under the supervision of a female medical officer.
  • Except for salary, the Provincial Government and the Federal Government, in respect of Islamabad Capital Territory, from the police budget shall allocate and disburse to every police-station funds for the purposes of meeting expenditure towards stationary, maintenance and repair, POL charges, cost of investigation and arrangement for transport.
  • New concept of Plea Bargaining has been introduced which will fundamentally reduce the backlogs and permit the Court to focus on the remaining cases.
  • Plea bargain will not apply to offences carrying death, life or a sentence above seven years.
  • Plea bargain shall also not be applicable to crimes in relations to women, children and issues effecting socio-economic conditions.
  • A very important new section 144A is proposed which prohibits carrying of arms in processions, mass drills and mass training to preserve peace and safety.

Amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860

  • Punishments for different crimes have been increased.
  • An offence for stalking a women has been introduced.

Amendments in the Qanun-e-Shahadat, 1984

  • The Court has discretion to allow evidence which is obtained or becomes available through modern means.
  • However, with regards to crimes against persons an electronic audio/video recording and evidence generated through any modern device, including e-mail, fax, or text message etc shall be admissible per se.
  • New laws for the establishment of Prosecution Service and Forensic science Agency in Islamabad capital Territory have been made.

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