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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Courtroom safety: A problem that must be addressed

According to Hafiz Muhammad Azeem, an Assistant District Public Prosecutor, courtroom safety is an important matter of concern. There is an increase in killings, shootings and fighting inside and outside, or even near the courtrooms and that is diminishing the trust of citizens in our justice system. Therefore, it is high time to make sure that the courtrooms are the safest place.

Courtrooms are not safe anymore in Pakistan. Legally speaking, a court is a place where trials are conducted and legal cases are decided in accordance with the law. Persons facing trials, or litigants claiming rights, come to court with a belief that it is the safest place where their rights will be protected, determined, and respected; they are under the protection of the law; they will get justice. However, with an increase in killings, shootings, fighting, and squabbling inside, outside, or even near the courtrooms, the trust of citizens upon which the premises of justice stands is started to be diminishing. Therefore, it is high time to make sure that the courtrooms are the safest place.

In Pakistan, work in courts has been divided as per subjects: civil, criminal, family, tax, banking, service matters, etc. Likewise, in the higher judiciary, work is also distributed amongst benches. It is becoming common day by day to watch the situation of chaos inside, outside, or near the courtrooms. What to speak of district judiciary, even the high judiciary is no exception to it.

Read more: Noor Mukadam case: A need to reform Pakistan’s justice system

The criminal litigations

Civil and criminal are two major divisions of the court work. In civil matters, often quarrel amongst litigants ends with police intervention, even though late, or after catching TV channel cameras, etc. but never ends with the death of anyone, because only future or financial interests are involved. However, in criminal matters, the situation is entirely different, because the loss of life is involved.

In criminal litigation, especially murder trials, litigants come to court not to get justice but to take revenge. It is not the hope of justice that is the leading factor, under the present circumstances of the criminal administration of justice in Pakistan, rather it is the rage and revenge that urges litigants involved in murder trials to come to court; many a time, only to get a chance to kill the accused or to injure him or his family members inside, outside, or near the courtrooms during trial hearings.

In recent days, only in Punjab, it can be seen that the situation inside criminal trial courts is very grim. Moreover, as per news and circulated videos on social media, a man wearing the uniform of an advocate shot down his target during court proceedings in the presence of police. Everyone was unsafe: the judge, the prosecutor, the stenographer, the reader of the court, the police officials, the clerks, the lawyers.

This is not unpreventable, rather this can be avoided with the use of modern technology. Our criminal laws are as old as one can think i.e. 1898 Procedure, 1908 Penal Code. When the light was rarely available. When the Mobile Phones are unimaginable. When the Internet is beyond thought. When for summons we need many days and a person for this job only. Whereas, as per research, in 1973, the first call from a hand-held device was made with a phone-shaped device of Motorola company. And January 1, 1983, is considered the official birthday of the Internet.

Read more: Justice system’s response to crimes against women

The age of social enlightening 

After that life has been changed. Today the world is on one click. This is the age of light, speed, and the internet. Sadly, still today we are roaming around the archaic age laws made by colonial masters not to favor the citizens of the subcontinent rather rule on them. Resultantly, we are still losing the lives inside, outside, or near the courtrooms: for what, justice?

Anyhow, by using modern devices not only this surely can be prevented but also the state expenses can be minimized of court proceedings. The summoning and attendance of accused persons either on bail or under custody should be made possible through the use of modern devices that must be installed inside each criminal trial courtroom. Although the colonial masters’ designed laws fixed the recording of evidence in the presence of the accused; however, it does not debar the use of modern devices for achieving the ends of justice.

In a recent most case titled Muhammad Israr versus the State, the honorable Peshawar High Court has provided detailed guidelines that must be followed by trial courts in recording evidence through the use of modern devices which can be taken as the first drop of rain. Likewise, the Supreme Court of Pakistan also time and again has highlighted the use of modern devices in recording the evidence.

Read more: The best way to reform Pakistan’s criminal justice system

How can we improve our justice system?

Judges should not act as spectators, and courts should not act as post offices. It has often been seen that accused persons facing trial moved applications that their lives are under threat, and judges just pass stereotypes orders for the police officials: mostly to the Station House Officer of the police station to ensure safety, who in compliance increase the quantity of deputed officers. Amongst those mostly remained on various raids, or for whole night security and are too much tired to actively obey the orders; so, they left things in the hands of fate.

What should be done is that whenever any witness or accused, or any complainant, or even anyone attending court proceedings moved an application of a life threat, it should not be considered lightly, rather his attendance must forthwith be shifted and be ensured through the use of modern devices: one TV, Internet device, and one operator inside the courtroom; one TV, Internet device, and one operator inside the police station in case of persons other than accused or accused on bail, or inside the jail premises in case of accused facing trials. That police station or jail then simply will be connected through the internet and court proceedings can be conducted safely.

This is not rocket science, this is very simple, a child of today’s age can do it. So, to conclude in the words of Stephen Hawking that “we are all connected like neurons in a giant brain”, it is the utmost requirement of the time that safety of lives is ensured inside the courtrooms through the use of modern technology and use of modern devices which is available in the hands of more than 180 million citizens of Pakistan.


The writer is an Assistant District Public Prosecutor. His articles can be accessed on hmazeem.blospot.com. He can be reached at Khokhar.azeem@yahoo.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.