ISLAMABAD: The apex court on Saturday acquitted a minor boy after 11 years of imprisonment in a drugs case.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa, while authoring the eight-page verdict, noted that “because of an inept investigation, a child remained incarcerated for over eleven years and attained adulthood in jail”.
“In this case, the police appeared to be more interested in protecting the real perpetrators of the crime,” the court noted.
The three-judge bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmad, comprising of Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah also said that the appellant “Muhammad Adnan admitted, that he was not even a teenager when the narcotic drugs were seized from the vehicle. ”
“Can a child of such tender age be the owner, or be deemed to be the owner, of the huge quantity of narcotic drugs which had been seized?” the bench remarked.
Could he be the owner of the vehicle? Could it be accepted that he was driving the vehicle? Whether he had the requisite understanding to know what he was doing.” the bench questioned.
“None of these matters were investigated by the police. The trial court was a juvenile court in terms of section four of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000, and was required to ensure that the interest of the child who was on trial were fully protected, however, it did not formulate the aforementioned “points for determination” (subsection (1) of section 367 of the Code) nor considered them during the trial.
“The trial court needlessly indulged in the prosecution, which took over two years to submit the police report, taking an additional three years to conclude the trial,” the bench observed.
“The trial court also overlooked Section 10(7) of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance which stipulates that if the trial is not concluded within a year the accused shall be released on bail and all the more so when the appellant was not responsible for the delay.”
The high court, which was the appellate court, then took another four years to decide on the appeal of the appellant.
“In the present case, an appeal to this court did not lie as of right; therefore, a petition for leave to appeal was filed in 2014 and leave to appeal was granted in terms of Article 185(3) of the Constitution by this Court in 2017, and the appeal has been decided on the first day of its listing.”
The verdict says that the ordinance does not specifically stipulate the period within which trials should be concluded nor the period within which appeals should be decided, however the stated purpose of the ordinance is to “provide for protection of children”.
“The delay in the conclusion of a juvenile’s trial before a juvenile court is also a ground for his release on bail as provided in Section 10(7) of the ordinance.
“Considering the provisions of the ordinance and being mindful that the Constitution envisages “the protection of women and children” (Clause (3) of Article 25) it would be appropriate to direct that the trial of juveniles be concluded by juvenile courts without delay and appeals against conviction be prioritised and expeditiously decided.
Therefore, the order said that chief justices of the provinces and of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) through their respective registrars should issue necessary directions to prioritise the hearing of appeals filed by juvenile convicts and in this regard direct that appeals by juvenile convicts are highlighted on the file covers of the appeals.
Requisite instructions by the chief justices, through their respective registrars, should also be issued to the juvenile courts within their respective territorial jurisdictions to ensure expeditious conclusion of trials.
The juvenile courts should further be directed not to entertain routine requests for adjournments and if the case is to be adjourned it must only be done so in exceptional circumstances.
“The office of this court is directed to communicate the paragraph (nine) of the judgment to the registrars of all the high courts, the prosecutor generals of the provinces and of the Islamabad Capital Territory and to the attorney general for Pakistan.
The office of this court is directed to insert the word ‘juvenile’ on the cover of the files of all criminal petitions and appeals filed by juvenile convicts and to prioritise their fixation in court”.