Speedy justice: ATCs directed to conduct daily hearings

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ISLAMABAD:A special huddle of the top judges of the country has directed the anti-terrorism courts (ATCs) to conduct daily hearings as per the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 so as to ensure speedy disposal of terrorism-related cases.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk chaired the meeting of the chief justices of all high courts and in-charge monitoring judges of high courts at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The extraordinary session was convened to discuss strategies regarding terrorism-related cases pending with different courts in the country in the aftermath of last week’s massacre at the Peshawar school.

According to Sub-section 7 of Section 19 of the ATA 1997, “the anti-terrorism court shall on taking cognizance of the case, proceed with the trial from day to day and shall decide the case with in seven working days.”

On perusal of reports received from the high court/ATCs, the special meeting observed that only 10-15% of cases pertained to bomb blasts/attacks by proscribed organisations/elements in these courts while the rest of the cases tried in these courts technically fall within the definition of terrorism.

After discussing the entire spectrum of the issues from different angles, the meeting made the following eight decisions:

1.  Trial of militancy-related terrorism cases shall be given priority and heard on a daily basis as provided under the ATA 1997

2.  The ATC judges must bind down witnesses, investigation/prosecution agencies and defence counsel for a particular date so that the cases are tried on a daily basis.

3.  In Balochistan and Malakand Division, where FC/Levies personnel/revenue officials are entrusted with the registration of FIRs and investigation of cases, the superior judiciary asked concerned government functionaries to ensure that police officers, who are trained in the processes of registration/investigation of cases are immediately inducted by requisitioning the services of the suitable personnel from the police departments.

4.  Monitoring judges of high courts shall hold meeting once a month, which will be attended by all the stakeholders, presiding officers of ATCs, representatives of the investigation/prosecution agencies, jail authorities, home departments, etc, so as to sort out bottlenecks at that level.

5.  The provincial governments shall take steps to reallocate premises of ATCs in consultation with the chief justices of their respective high courts to facilitate their smooth functioning.

6.  The offices of high courts and Supreme Court shall bifurcate appeals into militancy-related cases and others so that cases in the first category are heard on a priority basis. The chief justices shall ensure that the exercise of bifurcation of the cases is done at the earliest in their respective courts.

7.  The Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan Secretariat will be tasked to review the anti-terrorism law and formulate recommendations, and thereafter steps shall be taken to forward the same to the concerned quarters for further action.

8.  Reports on the above measures will be forwarded to the monitoring judges of the SC as well as the chief justice of Pakistan so that follow-up meetings are held on a regular basis.

Earlier while speaking at the meeting, CJP Nasirul Mulk said the Peshawar school massacre has been, and will be, condemned by everybody.  “Everyone is hurt, the entire nation is hurt. Indeed, it is a national tragedy.

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