Other than gender mainstreaming in Police, automation of Police processes is second biggest achievement of Punjab Police in last decade. Punjab Police is a leading example in this scenario by all standards and other provinces and police organisations are following suit. However, the cardinal issue of First Information Report (FIR) remains the focal point of all discussions at all forums. Most eloquent of Police officers lose their argument when someone asks them during a heated debate if he or she can get a FIR registered in a Police station without reference or a recommendation letter of various denominations bearing picture of founder of Pakistan! The standard response by majority of Police Officers on the discussion table revolves around plethora of false reports and abuse of free registration by the people. They point out that majority of complainants concoct the stories to implicate their opponents in FIR to bring them in clutches of a criminal justice system which is slow, expensive and humiliating. The legal process starting from Police Stations to prosecution to prisons and then court of law takes ages for the cases to be decided due to various reasons.

Over reliance on FIR and its content in the judicial process is major reason for all stakeholders to record it in such a manner that it will ensure them maximum benefits in the courts and at times pleasure as well! FIR is recorded under Section 154 or Criminal Procedure Code of 1898 which requires four elements. It should be by the complainant in his own language, reduced into writing, signed by the applicant and handed over to Station House Officer (SHO) of a Police Station. Nowhere it was mentioned that it will be a gospel truth or bear all the circumstances including names of accused, their descriptions, master minds, abettors etcetera. It was supposed to be a mere first information which a complainant may like to provide to Police to take appropriate action as early as possible if situation demands. However, this intent of law is buried under the rubrics of wizards who prefer form over function and are adept in using the old scheme of things conveniently. But circumstances and people are changing fast even in criminal justice system of Pakistan though it is neither acknowledged nor appreciated and much less celebrated.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa revealed in this address to the Police Reform Conference in Karachi Central Police Office only other day that since last 86 days more than 9000 criminal cases including murder, narcotics and other serious crimes have been disposed off by model courts as a consequence of implementing a key decision judges of the apex courts. In our system of criminal justice, there is no precedent of this output in any era since 1865. To fathom the process clearly, it means that all codal formalities and procedures were completed: complete challans were submitted by the police investigators, witnessed were produced and statements recorded, cross examinations conducted and after due deliberations by the judges, trials were completed. Many readers will not believe these words like thousands of victims and complainants who were astonished that courts dispensed justice at such a speed yet within same CrPC and legal framework of the state. It shows the resolve of champions of change in judicial system led by none other than Chief Justice of Pakistan. This success story of Justice system is going to be replicated in the civil courts also in coming days. The change in action is real need of the time rather rhetoric.

He also pointed out that due to effective grievance redressal mechanism adopted by Police under the guidance of committee there is 11 per cent reduction in applications to subordinate judiciary and 20 percent reduction in cases going to higher judiciary. It is another revolutionary change. Although it is due to effective grievance redressal but it also attributed to a policy of open registration of FIR by Police particularly in big urban centres of the country under the deliberate decision of the IGPs of each Police province. Although number of FIR registration are increasing which are, customarily taken negatively, but public satisfaction is increasing and they trust the criminal justice system more. Evidence to this statement is derived from number of phone calls received on Police Integrated Emergency Response System- 15 established in Punjab Safe Cities HQ in Lahore. The Lahore Police physically approached the complainants, within 10 minutes on an average, to 29800 emergency calls in 2017, 434,000 calls in 2018 and in first 6 months of 2019 the number is 331,000. It shows Police response is doubled in 2019 than 2017. In all these instances FIR was not registered but the caller provided initial details, his identity through phone number, his/her voice was recorded by a Police Communication officer which is presentable in any court of law unaltered. Where issues required investigations, the cases were referred to Police station and legal steps were taken. Through this system people not only accessed the Police at their own leisure but also recorded immediate and spontaneous reports related to all kind of issues. Why this call on 15 Emergency Call System cannot be treated as a FIR? To a large extent, it complies with requirements of Section 154 of CrPC 1898.

Like other changes in the Justice System, meaningful interventions in other pillars of this system are also required. In particular, in urban centres which have grown up unplanned and now causing upheaval in everyday life of all users, it is imperative that people are provided emergency services at their door step which is all possible through technological advancement. There is no need that people should walk in all the time to seek police assistance when Police can reach at their doorstep within 10 minutes and provide immediate help. It will not only save time, cost and agony of the complainants but it will also filter out false complaints and resolve the issues informally through on the spot mediation in the presence of First Responders of Police and other units like 1122. Matters which require further investigations and fact finding inquiries should be sent to Police investigation units and formal procedures should come into motion when there is sufficient ground to proceed. The right of the citizens to be heard and grievance redressal should be respected and in a more congenial, sophisticated and efficient manner. This will end the over reliance on contents of FIR and cases should be based upon facts and evidence to be presented in model courts of law. Days are not far that all courts of Pakistan will work as model courts to dispense justice in fair and fast manner and treat FIR as an information rather final report in the criminal cases.