Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chowdhry has said that the matter of safety and protection of witnesses is very important and needs to be tackled on priority basis.

In his opening remarks at a meeting held on Saturday in connection with monitoring of ATC cases and for improvement in the anti-terrorism courts, he said If the witnesses are fully protected then they would be coming forward in order to depose against the accused.

“They will not feel any fear. As the cases in the ATC Courts are already related to hardened criminals and who are involved in heinous offences, therefore, the witnesses in such cases need special care and protection. In the same way, adequate protection be also provided to the personal investigator, prosecuting against as well as Judges. Besides this we have also to handle the issue of backlog of cases in the ATC Courts in some places. This issue is partly due to delay in appointment of judges. Therefore, the issue of shortage of Judges must remain under constant forces”, he said.

“If there is no sufficient evidence, it is not possible for the Court to inflict punishment without determining the guilt of the person. Nobody can be deprived of his life and liberty without due course of law”, he said.

He said that every accused has the right to fair trial.

But, he said, the issue of lack of evidence was also felt by the legislature and that’s why to tackle this issue Section 21 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 provides for the protection of Judges, Counsel, Public Prosecutor, witnesses and persons concerned with Court proceedings.