That the Khyber Medical University is not only considering charges for medico-legal tests, but has even chalked out a rate list, indicates how short of funds it is. However, it should not be left to view these tests, whether autopsies or DNA testing, as financial burdens, because to do so, would be to put justice on sale. A victim should not have to depend on how much money he or she has, to get a medical report, which is frequently a requirement of the trial court in rendering judgement. It is bad enough prosecuting the case, what with the police perennially with hands out in search of a bribe, without having to pay for medico-legal tests. The University is also considering a daily fee for storing corpses. That will mainly place the burden on the police in the case of unidentified and unclaimed corpses.
It is not difficult to see how abuses can spread. With a police force which doesn’t get funds for stationery, it is not likely that the government will spring for the police to have tests conducted. It would leave the police to pressure the victim to find the money for tests, not to mention a handsome facilitation fee for itself.
While the tests are a public good, they must also be paid for. However, instead of the proposed user charges, the government would find it more people-friendly to fund the University more thoroughly, to the point where the expenses are met. It is a little surprising that the PTI has allowed matters to reach this pass. It would have been expected of a government of such an avowedly populist bent to act in a fashion that would facilitate the people rather than place additional burdens on them, and that too in a matter that causes pain among persons who have already got serious problems. After all, medico-legal tests have to be performed only when people are victims of some heinous crime. They should not have to pay for justice. The argument can be extended to charging for trials, or for police investigations. Does the PTI really want to go down that path?