ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry Saturday said the movement in the post-emergency period of 3rd November, 2007, was realization of rule of law against extra-constitutional regimes in the country.
He said judiciary, with the support of lawyers and other segments of society, acted as a bulwark against the dictatorial rule.
The Chief Justice said this was indeed a turning point in the constitutional history of the country as the restraint order of 3rd November, 2007, coupled with Parliament’s refusal to endorse unconstitutional action, laid the much needed groundwork to build a strong and invincible democratic structure upon it.
Addressing the inaugural session of One-Day Workshop on “Prisoners Vulnerability-Lacking Awareness”, he said the apex court was fully geared to enforce fundamental rights, enshrined in the Constitution which entail rights of the prisoners.
He said judiciary was also keen to take all possible steps for the betterment of prisoners. The Supreme Court in a Suo Motu action with respect to deplorable state of prisoners in prisons, observed that “the prisoners lodged in different prisons, under trial or otherwise have equal rights of protection of life in terms of Article 9 of the Constitution”.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of the State to provide them basic facilities, he added.
“If the prisons are over populated, steps for increasing the capacity by constructing new jails or barracks must be taken and also to ensure that their trial should be expedited by issuing instructions to the investigating agencies,” he said.
The Chief Justice said Pakistan inherited a prison system which is based on the principle of retaliation and reprisal. Since the creation of Pakistan, prisons never remained the priority of the Governments, he added.
He said it was for this reason that number of prisons could not be increased with the passage of time which resulted in their overcrowding and it speaks what basic facilities are being provided to the prisoners as far as their boarding is concerned.
It is alarming that number of prisoners is on the increasing side due to rising population and escalating crime rate as overcrowding with insufficient staff, adversely affects the security issues also which increase violence in the prisons, he said.
The facilities of transportation of prisoners for their trial and police lock-ups in trial courts also present a dismayed outlook and the old and dilapidated structure of prisons does not fulfill the objectives of prisons, he added.
Therefore, it is need of the time to take urgent remedial steps in prisons reforms.
“I want to reiterate that the judiciary being the third pillar of the State is safeguarding the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan by maintaining rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution”, he said.
“I have had the opportunity to visit prisons all over the country and am familiar with the prevalent living conditions of prisoners and overall environment of prisons”, he added.
“I also know the treatment meted out to prison inmates. Regrettably no plans exist to reform and rehabilitate prisoners to make them useful members of society”.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said: “we have recommended various measures from the forum of National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee, having the representation of Chief Justices of all the High Courts and these recommendations include providing separate boarding to the juveniles and females; having quality food and clean drinking water; providing literature for study; and introducing recreational facilities.
For medical care of the inmates of prisons, the Policy Making Committee got screening of Hepatitis and HIV cases so that the infected prisoners be segregated from others including their proper treatment, he said.
This Committee also evolved a mechanism of regular inspection of the prisons by the Sessions Judges and Additional Sessions Judges for observing the conditions of the prisons and addressing the grievances of the prisoners on the spot, he added.
He said that the rights of prisoners have been accepted internationally and the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 45/111 presents a major guiding document with respect to the treatment of prisoners.
The Chief Justice said the judiciary is conscious of the fact that it has to protect the rights of the prisoners and the judiciary has been performing its duty through the judgments and also taking reformative measures from the forum of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee but the main stakeholder – the jail regime – has to play its role by providing all facilities which have been recognized by the laws and the rules.
At the same time, the other State functionaries, civil society and media need to come forward to join hand with the judiciary for bringing revolutionary changes in the jail culture, he added.