LAHORE - Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry on Wednesday said the courts get bad name after criminals are freed in the event the police fail to submit challans. He gave these remarks while heading a two-judge Bench hearing a bail application of Ali Nawaz, involved in killing his wife advocate Shabnum Faryal, at the SC’s Lahore Registry.

Deploring the presence of over 2,300 people hustled into the Punjab jails, Chief Justice Chaudhry observed: “It seems as if the entire police force has been put on some other job, with no one taking care of the accused present in prisons.”

It should be mentioned here that the court on Tuesday had taken a strict note of police failing to present challans on time, and sought details of the cases of prisoners whose challans had not been presented to the courts. Addressing the IGP and SSP Abdul Razzaq Cheema, who were present in the courtroom, the CJP Chaudhry had remarked: “You should know what action to take if you find any of your officers responsible.” Addressing the IGP, the CJ said: “Don’t subject the courts to ridicule. You should have come after completing all paper work.”

During Wednesday’s hearing, the Inspector General of Prisons added insult to police injury by telling the SC bench that over 2,300 prisoners were waiting for the start of their cases as their charge sheet (challan) has not been submitted. IG Prisons Mian Farooq Nazir disclosed the figures in his report presented to the bench. IG police Haji Habibur Rehman was also present in the courtroom.

The IG Prisons further told the SC bench that the Punjab police, who received Rs50 billion in the budget for the year 2011-12, had not submitted the challans of 2,306 prisoners so far. Telling the truth about the police performance, IG Nazir further informed the CJ-led bench that accused Ali Nawaz was sent to jail in May 2011. “He (accused) was produced before a judicial magistrate for not less than twenty times during the last eight months. Still no charge-sheet was submitted by the police and the prosecution,” Nazir added.

Continuing his deposition, IG Farooq Nazir also told the bench that the Camp and Kot Lakhpath jails in Lahore were currently housing more than double the number of prisoners than their capacity. “As many as 3,659 prisoners are detained at Camp Jail against its capacity of 1,050. Likewise, 3,500 are languishing in Kot Lakhpat Jail while it could only accommodate 1,000 prisoners.”  IG Nazir’s statement became a source of tension for newly-appointed IG police Mr Rehman, especially when the CJP said that he was not happy about the police department’s performance. The CJ also admonished the IG, whose appointment has been challenged in the Lahore High Court.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary observed: “The police and the prosecution are not fulfilling their responsibilities. What is happening in the police department? The police only want to avail perks and privileges without doing anything. Prisoners also have [their] rights. The poor prisoners face hardships in jails while the influential ones get shifted to hospitals. The courts are then held responsible for delays in cases.”

The bench summoned the Punjab Home Secretary Shahid Khan on Thursday for explanation over the excessiveness of prisoners in provincial jails and how to accommodate and provide more facilities to the prisoners and reduce their number. The bench also directed the IG Prisons to submit a prison-wise detailed report of the sufferings of the inmates.

The same bench also took a strict notice of granting of remands by the magisterial courts without applying judicial mind and going through police files. It directed LHC Member Inspection Team to seek explanation from a Lahore Cant. judicial magistrate for extending unnecessary remand of an accused without any cogent reasons and asked the police about the lack of charge-sheets.