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EDITORIAL: For long, officers in our police stations have relied on covert informants to keep an eye on the activities of suspects within their remit.

But often times, reports from unidentified collaborators are used for falsifying evidence to charge people from vulnerable sections of society with serious crimes, either to prove efficiency to get a coveted promotion or to extract money from an accused. In one such case, an FIR was registered in the Counter Terrorism Department at a police station in Karachi.

According to the prosecution version, an investigation officer was on patrol when he received a call from an informer that a young man, later identified as Zain Shahid, along with an accomplice who escaped, was seen holding a logbook with the inscription “Daesh Pakistan Fund Raising” which could be used to carry out acts of terrorism all over Pakistan.

And that after investigation, a report along with evidence was submitted before a trial court. Consequently, the accused was handed 10-year imprisonment, which was upheld by the Sindh High Court (SHC).

As it turns out, all this was the result of a fabricated police report. The accused/convict filed a petition for leave to appeal before the Supreme Court. After hearing the case a three-member bench headed by Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail delivered its judgement on Tuesday.

Setting aside the SHC’s decision, the apex court ordered immediate release of the petitioner, observing that the case against him was initiated on an informant’s information, but it was not put into writing, and that the manner in which the petitioner was “implicated” in the case was not free from doubt. Furthermore, affirming a general opinion about the prevalence of such incriminations the verdict authored by Justice Mandokhail remarked: “We have noticed in a number of cases that the police arrest or harass innocent persons for ulterior motives on the basis of suspicion or on the pretext of terrorism, without any solid or cogent evidence.”

That in fact is the reason rather than feeling safe in seeking their help ordinary citizens dread going to the police. Putting a stop to such malpractices and the resultant miscarriage of justice, the court ruled that information obtained from an informant (better known as mukhbir) should always be recorded or put into writing by the law enforcing agency for the sake of fair play.

This significant aspect of police reports filed before courts has remained ignored in attempts at police reforms. The 2002 Police Order that replaced the colonial era Police Act of 1861 was brought in to address moral and procedural weaknesses of the police system, but it could not be implemented because of the power dynamics that are at play.

The main hurdle has been ruling classes’ incorrigible habit of employing the police for the perpetuation of their influence. The police, in turn, see benefit in pleasing their political masters rather than serving the people in whose name they rule.

The apex court’s verdict in the present instance can provide at least some protection against wrongful arrest and conviction arising out of unverifiable information attributed to unnamed sources.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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KU Mar 11, 2024 12:04pm
Money talks and the rest is abuse of due process of law. Antiquated British laws have violated any sense of justice for 75 years, which is why a dubious FIR by SHO cannot be questioned in top courts.
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