'Establish Presence Of Accused People And Avoid Unnecessary Delay In Trials': CJP Qazi Faez Isa

The Supreme Court's order, penned by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, highlights the necessity of recording videos or taking photographs during the search and seizure of narcotics substance as generation of evidence

'Establish Presence Of Accused People And Avoid Unnecessary Delay In Trials': CJP Qazi Faez Isa

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa has emphasized recording of video or taking photographs during search and seizure of narcotics substances - to not only establish the presence of the accused person, but to also avoid the unnecessary delay in trials.  

“If the police and ANF were to use their mobile phone cameras to record and/or take photographs of the search, seizure and arrest, it would be useful evidence to establish the presence of the accused at the crime scene, the possession by the accused of the narcotic substances, the search and its seizure,” observed Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa in a narcotics related case.

“It may also prevent false allegations being levelled against ANF/police that the narcotic substance was foisted upon them for some ulterior motives,” he further observed in a 4-page written order. 

A petitioner, Zahid Sarfaraz Gill, had challenged the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) September 20 order, wherein his bail was declined. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Isa had heard the case and granted bail to Gill subject to furnishing bail bond of Rs. 100,000 with one surety in the like amount to the satisfaction of the Trial Court. 

The top court ruled that the facts and circumstances of the instant case make it a case of further inquiry.  “We think it appropriate to make certain observations which were necessitated by the facts of this and other narcotic substance cases,” the written order stated. 

“However, we fail to understand why the police and members of the Anti-Narcotics Force (‘ANF’) do not record or photograph when search, seizure and/or arrest is made,” the Chief Justice observed. 

The order added that the Article 164 of the Qanun-e-Shahadat, 1984 specifically permits the use of any evidence that may have become available because of modern devices or techniques, and its Article 165 overrides all other laws.

“In narcotic cases the prosecution witnesses usually are ANF personnel or policemen who surely would have a cell phone with an in-built camera. In respect of those arrested with narcotic substances generally there are only a few witnesses, and most, if not all, are government servants.” 

“However, trials are unnecessarily delayed, and resultantly the accused seek bail first in the trial court which if not granted to them is then filed in the High Court and there too if it is declined, petitions seeking bail are then filed in this Court.”  

The Chief Justice has further observed that those selling narcotic substances make their buyers addicts, destroy their state of mind, health and productivity, and adversely affect the lives of their family members. 

“The very fabric of society is damaged. ANF and the Police forces are paid out of the public exchequer. It is incumbent upon them to stem this societal ill,” it added. 

“The Prosecution services, paid out of the public exchequer, is also not advising the ANF/police to be do this simple act of making a recording and/or taking photographs as stated above.”

“A consequence of poor investigation, not supported by evidence adversely affects the cases of the prosecution,” the top court observed, further adding that the courts, which too are sustained by the public exchequer, are burdened with having to attend bail applications because the commencement and conclusion of the trial is delayed. 

“It is time that all institutions act professionally and use all available lawful means to obtain evidence. A credible prosecution and adjudication process also improves public perception.” 

“We expect that all concerned will attend to these matters with the attention that they demand, because the menace of narcotic substances in society has far reaching consequences: by destroying entire households, creating societal problems and casting a heavy financial burden on the State when drug addicts are required to be treated.” 

Moreover, research indicates that drugs addicts resort to all methods to obtain drugs, including committing crimes, it added.

The Chief Justice has directed his office to send the copy of the instant order to the Secretary Ministry of Narcotics Control, Director-General Anti-Narcotics Force, the Secretaries of the Home Departments of all the provinces, Inspector-Generals of Police of all the provinces and of the Islamabad Capital Territory. 

“They may also consider whether they want to amend the ANF/Police rules to ensure making video recordings/taking photographs whenever possible with regard to capturing, preserving and using such evidence at trial,” the top court recommended.  

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain