Police reforms and judicial reforms have always been on agenda of all governments since inception of Pakistan. There have been, at least, 22 commissions established for reforming the Policing. Despite high powered commissions headed by renowned personalities, incessant echoes of improvement of Policing in particular and criminal justice system remain in the air. One common finding of the reform commissions and committees is lack of coordination among Police, prosecution, probation, prisons and judiciary. District and provincial criminal justice coordination committees has partly addressed this issue, however, there is need to do more in this context due to rapid yet uneven growth and development in each of these pillars of criminal justice system (CJS).

Increasing population and lack of commensurate service providing structures of CJS are two fundamental reasons of dissatisfaction of the masses who complain about delay in registration of FIR by police to partial prosecution to delay in decision of cases by the courts. Whereas population mushrooming remain unchecked, additional spending on CJS will be unsustainable and shall prove to be insufficient after few years. At the operational level, we hear frustrated voices of functionaries of CJS that facilities and resources are insufficient to accommodate the complainants or even to act proactively to prevent the crimes to take place. District courts are over-crowded as neither facilities are sufficient nor there is any reduction in court cases is in sight. In this case there is no distinction in rural or urban environment. Same is the case with prosecution department where case load is unmanageable for the available staff. And this is only a quantitative aspect which is being discussed here. Quality of prosecution comes at later stage.

Prisons are also looking after at least three times more prisoners than the actual capacity of the prisons and administration is under tremendous pressure to cope up with increasing number of prisoners.

Despite all technological developments and their incorporation in public sector, the business processes of these sectors remain unchanged and reliance is largely on manual system of communication prevalent since last century. Most conspicuous change in tools employed in these departments, is replacement of type writer with computer in the offices of clerks and still loads of papers are printed for vetting the draft communications and lots of trees are cut to fill the files in each department. Other major development is installation of security system, raising the heights of boundary walls and fixation of barbed wires to prevent the terrorist attack in all important public offices. These changes are most visible yet the users of these systems and services keep waiting for addressing their requirements and redressing their grievances.

Yet all is not lost and innovative practices are creeping into the CJS in various forms. Recently Chief Justice of Pakistan has introduced a speedy justice mechanism in which more than 5700 cases are dealt with on fast track bases and more model courts are established to address the most common complaints of delay in decisions of cases in courts. He has also started pilot project to start video link hearing of cases which is a step much needed to save time, cost and energy of all stakeholders except those who were beneficiaries of archaic systems. It is also news for many that Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) has already conducted international trials through video link with Norwegian Police and courts through a lawful process duly approved by the international experts.

There are many more opportunities through technology which are ripe and available within the public sector only to be harnessed by the decision makers. Here are few easy to implement scenarios. First, it is possible to stop practice of bringing thousands of under trial prisoners every day for mere granting next date of hearing for one reason or the other. This can be done by video link between the trial court and the relevant prison where the accused is present. Second, it is also possible to even record statements of witnesses present in other cities through video links rather than bringing them to the court physically. It can not only save time and cost but also can ensure safety and security of prime witnesses. Third, concept of faceless judges, prosecutors and witnesses in terrorism cases is a practical proposition all over the world and all tools are available within the government organisations. Fourth, availability of evidence and record and its electronic transfer, preservation and production to the court is also possible without contamination and abuse by the investigation and prosecution officials. Fifth, judicial case management systems are very much possible despite the fact that it has been tried but couldn’t materialize due to lack of understanding of business process, inadequate management and resistance from beneficiaries of existing system.

Lessons learnt from previous endeavours and scope of possibilities call for an integrated Criminal Justice System (iCJS) which can integrate relevant business processes without disturbing the lawful mandate of each stakeholders.

It will focus on above mentioned cases and integrate and communicate among the pillars of CJS to save time and cost of the whole process for all concerned. It includes electronic connectivity among the Police, Prosecution, Courts and Prisons and development of standard operating procedures which are already available but need tweaks to fit in the new paradigm. However, it does not require any bureaucratic intervention or creating more room for control by non-professionals or any one pillar of CJS. iCJS is a collaborative model to reduce costs and to increase efficiency of CJS to make life easier, corruption free and affordable for the end users of the CJS in Pakistan. It will make it possible to save millions of rupees spent by the people and the state for production of accused and witnesses to courts every day at the risk of public inconvenience and security of all involved in the processes.

However, one should also remember wisdom of Niccolo Machiavelli who said, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Yet, courage to create new order of things is founding stone of evolution in human history. If carefully crafted and earnestly implemented, iCJS can be tried in Lahore as a pilot project and can be extended relatively faster to other parts of the country without much cost.

The writer is DIG QPM, and Chief Operating Officer of Punjab Safe Cities Authority. He has a MPA form Harvard and a LLM from SOAS.

Despite all technological developments and their incorporation in public sector, the business processes of these sectors remain unchanged and reliance is largely on manual system of communication prevalent since last century.