Centre’s nod needed for database of sex offenders, Nadra tells SHC

Between January 2021 and July 2023, conviction rate in rape cases stands at mere 12pc, court told

KARACHI: The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has informed the Sindh High Court that the database of sex offenders, as required to be maintained under the anti-rape law, may only be created after approval of the federal government and formulation of rules and regulations to ensure security protocols.

The SHC was hearing a petition seeking implementation of the Anti-Rape (Trial and Investigation) Act, 2021 including establishment of anti-rape crisis cells, special investigation units, allocation of funds to provide legal help to victims, protection for witnesses and appointment of special prosecutors to plead such cases.

When a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, took up the matter for hearing, a lawyer filed comments on behalf of the director general of Nadra and a provincial law officer also filed reply on behalf of the inspector general of police (IGP-Sindh). The additional prosecutor general also filed some documents. However, the deputy attorney general representing principal secretary to the prime minister and law secretary was found absent.

Adjourning the hearing till Sept 28, the bench directed an assistant advocate general to file reply on behalf of the chief secretary and secretaries of the law and home departments by the next hearing.

The Nadra official, in his comments, stated that the provision of Section 24 of the Anti-Rape Act might be invoked subject to a prerequisite mechanism for prescribed rules and recommendations of a special committee for provision of data and information as well as technical assistance to Nadra through federal ministry of interior with compatible security protocols of national data warehouse.

“That the authority functions under administrative control of federal ministry of interior and any viable mechanism for establishment of required ‘database of convicts and offenders’ may only be established subject to directions of federal government and formulation of ‘rules & regulations’ to ensure the security protocols and standards of national data warehouse under the provisions of NADRA Ordinance, 2000,” the official stated.

In his comments, the prosecutor general submitted that in compliance with an earlier court order, a report about acquittals and convictions in the rape cases was filed.

According to the report, from Jan 2021 to July 2023 the court disposed of 999 rape cases across the province, acquitting accused in 878 cases and convicting them in 121 cases with the overall conviction rate of around 12 per cent.

According to the report, 457 rape cases were disposed of by the subordinate judiciary of Sindh in 2021. Accused persons were exonerated in 407 cases, while trial courts had convicted accused in 50 cases and the conviction rate stood at 10.94pc.

Similarly, 328 cases were decided in 2022 and accused in 288 cases were acquitted while the courts convicted accused in 40 cases. The conviction rate stood at 12.20pc.

Regarding cases disposed of from January to July 2023, the SHC was informed that out of 214 cases accused were acquitted in 183 cases and convicted in 31 others. The conviction rate stood at 14.49pc, it added.

He stated that the ministry of law & justice through a notification issued in July 2021 had designated prosecutors across the country including Sindh for prosecution of scheduled offences registered under the Anti-Rape Act.

He further stated that the office of the prosecutor general had found defects in the investigation reports being filed by police in rape cases and proactive consultation between the police and prosecution for effective investigation was required.

In the wake of a low conviction rate in different districts, warning had been issued to a few prosecutors and they had also been posted out while lack of immediate response/crime scene unit and lab facilities in the province required to be immediately addressed, the comments stated.

The IGP, in his reply, submitted that in the light of a court order, directives had been issued to the Karachi police chief, all the DIGs and other senior police officers to ensure compliance of the court order in respect of conviction in rape cases.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2023

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