An effective criminal justice system builds public confidence in the rule of law and promotes fruitful achievement of goals in the socio-economic and human development sectors. Prosecution is an integral part of the criminal justice system. Effective prosecution in criminal cases not only ensures timely dispensation of justice but also contributes towards forestalling recurrence of crime in society. The present government has placed special focus on effective prosecution of criminal cases. The Public Prosecution Department, in furtherance of this governmental emphasis, has made determined efforts to attain merit-based prosecution to bring criminals to justice.

The health and wellbeing of the public is an extremely important area which needs special focus of any government as it deeply affects the life of citizens in general. The Public Prosecution Department, through its objective-oriented prosecution, addressed this matter effectively through its able prosecution team and distinctly secured conviction in 98.47 percent cases registered under the Drug Act, 1976.

For effective prosecution during trial through preparation of well-founded cases against culprits, the department has placed focus on Police-Prosecution coordination during the course of the investigation. Consequently, three types of committees have been constituted by the government. The committee constituted at the provincial level consists of a DIG (Investigation/Monitoring), the Additional Prosecutor General Punjab & AIG (Legal).

Likewise, committees constituted at divisional headquarters are composed of an SSP (Investigation) or SSP Regional Investigation Branch, District Public Prosecutor and SP (Legal). The committees constituted at the district level consist of an SP (Investigation), Deputy/Assistant District Public Prosecutor and DSP (Legal). These committees are required to review cases that resulted into acquittal and grant of bail to accused persons, particularly in murder cases and determine the causes of failure of investigation and prosecution in these cases and make recommendations for improvements in future prosecution of cases.

In order to improve the standard of investigation in Serious Sexual Violence (SSV) cases, the department has introduced a checklist showing the essential elements to be covered during the process of preparation of reports u/s 173 Cr.P.C. This checklist will serve a gate-keeping role in SSV cases, and without its observance and collection of evidence detailed in the checklist, a case will not be received by prosecution and forwarded to the court for trial. The department has also approved the guidelines to be observed during scrutiny of police reports u/s 173 Cr.P.C by the prosecutors working in district and in anti-terrorism courts.

Successful prosecution of a case is dependent on cooperation of the victim and witness of a case. Their role is crucial in securing conviction of culprits. In most cases, witnesses are reluctant to come forward and join the investigation process and appear before the court to give testimony against offenders. There may be a number of reasons for this reluctance such as social pressure, family constraints and intimidation by offenders.

To provide protection to the victims and witnesses of the cases and enable them to depose against offenders without fear, the Punjab Witness Protection Act, 2018 has been enacted. The government notified the Punjab Witness Protection Board on 26-04-2019. As required by the Witness Protection Act, two witness protection units have been established for the purpose of risk assessment and to suggest appropriate measures required for protection of witnesses and other persons connected with inquiry, investigation and trial. The Public Prosecution Department has nominated 20 prosecutors as Risk Assessment Officer for both units.

The right to fair trial, along with right of recourse to counsel are provided by the Constitution of Pakistan. The state is under an obligation to provide legal assistance to those people who are facing a criminal charge and due to financial constraints are unable to engage a legal expert for their representation in the court. The Public Prosecution Department, with the aim to provide legal assistance to indigent persons in criminal cases and to females in their family cases, established the Punjab Legal Aid Agency on 29-10-2019 under the provisions of the Punjab Legal Aid Act, 2018.

To regulate the quantum of punishment awarded to the accused persons in consonance with the magnitude of the offence, the Punjab Sentencing Act, 2019 was introduced that secured the assent of the Assembly on 13-12-2019. The courts are now under an obligation to advance reasons for elongated or squat terms of imprisonments.

The world is fast transforming from conventional paperwork to a paperless environment in all official workings. In the modern era, with the help of information technology, governments can proactively provide services that meet expectations of its citizens in the face of growing complex challenges. The Public Prosecution Department, keeping in view the spirit of the times, has taken a step towards digitisation and introduced an integrated web-based software aimed to automate, monitor and meaningfully control the progress of cases through its stages to enable public and other stakeholders to know the fate of the case on a single click at any time.

The system also provides information about action taken by prosecution at every step of the case i.e. FIRs/progress in the submission of challans, opinions tendered and the status of accused. Similarly, the head of the Prosecution Department may monitor performance of prosecutors through this system. Currently this system is working all over the province. Laptops have been provided in three divisions i.e. Lahore, Gujranwala & Faisalabad.

The department is in the process of providing laptops to six other divisions of the province (Bahawalpur, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, DG Khan, Multan and Sahiwal) and all special courts related to anti-terrorism, anti-corruption, drugs, the environmental and livestock tribunals through execution of the ADP scheme. At present, approximately 226,010 decided cases of year 2015 to date have been uploaded in the system, whereas 43,546 cases have been uploaded from August-2018 to June-2020.

To raise the overall strength of prosecution work force at all tiers, the department has recruited 08 DPGs (BS-18) in May, 2019 and 123

ADPPs (BS-17) in January, 2019 through Punjab Public Service Commission. The process of recruitment of 18 DDPPs (BS-18) and 90 ADPPs (BS-17) is under process with PPSC which is likely to be completed by September, 2020. According to the vision of the present government to provide jobs to disabled persons and to give them the opportunity of livelihood, the Public Prosecution Department sent a requisition for the recruitment of 17 ADPPs (BS-17), against the disabled quota to the Punjab Public Service Commission. So far, PPSC has sent recommendations of two candidates and those have been posted.

In order to ensure smooth career progression in department, 119 Assistant District Public Prosecutors (BS-17) have been promoted to the post of Deputy District Public Prosecutor (BS-18), 11 Deputy District Public Prosecutors (BS-18) have been promoted to the post of District Public Prosecutor (BS-19) and 8 Deputy Prosecutor Generals (BS-18) have been promoted to the post of Additional Prosecutor General (BS-19).

To ensure a better working environment for prosecutors, the department is in the process of constructing purpose-built buildings for prosecution offices across the Punjab. The construction of three office buildings in Layyah, Sialkot and Okara districts has been completed during the period 2019-20, whereas thirteen office buildings at Attock, Mianwali, Bhakkar, Mandi Bahauddin, Narowal, Hafizabad, Sahiwal, Multan, DG Khan, Sheikhupura, Jhang, Lodhran and Pakpattan districts are under construction which will be completed till June, 2021.

Adding to the already-acquired knowledge base and improving working skills is a continuous process and plays a pivotal role for improved performance. The department has a permanent wing in the configuration of the Centre for Professional Development of Public Prosecutors (CPD). The CPD imparted training to 1640 officers of different cadres on various important aspects of prosecution i.e. trial advocacy skills, sentencing policy, charging standards, appeal policy, witness protection measures, forensic evidence, money laundering and case management.

The department also extended its training to Punjab Police and imparted training to investigating officers with special focus on the collection of evidence and the importance of Police-Prosecution cooperation during investigation. 64 police officers were trained by the department during the year 2019-20. The CPD, apart from the regular training sessions in its campus, has also a contemporary training facility of distance learning in the shape of E-CAPRI (online learning management system). From July 2019 to-date, 423 prosecutors benefited through this system and completed their training.

To maintain quality and ensure the performance standard of prosecutors, an independent system of accountability by way of inspection exists in the department. The Punjab Criminal Prosecution Service Inspectorate is skillfully and painstakingly shouldering the responsibility of accountability. The Inspectorate conducted 155 inspections of various prosecution offices of Punjab during the said period.

The department appraised the performance of prosecutors in light of observations and recommendations of the Inspectorate and took action against responsible prosecutors on any act prejudicial to and compromising the standards of prosecution of cases. During this period of time, a total number of 96 inquiry proceedings were initiated under PEEDA Act, 2006 against 205 officers of various grades (BS-17 to BS-19) working in the Department. Out of these 96 inquiry proceedings, 50 have been finalised.

A total of 515 complaints against officers/officials of the department were lodged by the general public on the Pakistan Citizen Portal (PCP), out of which 502 complaints were disposed of on time whereas only 13 complaints are under process at present. However, this is not the end, but only a small beginning.

Last but not the least, the Public Prosecution Department through its collaboration with major stakeholders of the criminal justice system will continue its endeavours for the achievement of the objective of ensuring a society based on norms of exemplary implementation of law through equitable, meritorious and time saving administration of justice.