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The Context In the absence of national statistics on crime and justice sector, we have to refer to international indexes. In the realm of the rule of law, the Global Rule of Law Index is used as a presumptive indicator. The latest Global Rule of Law Index of 2021 has ranked Pakistan at 130 out of 139 countries. It measured eight factors: constraints on government power, fundamental rights, absence of corruption, open government, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice. Its details reveal that Pakistan’s criminal justice is ranked at 108 out of 139 countries whereas the civil justice is ranked at 124 out of 139 countries. This shows that there is urgent need to reform both the civil and criminal justice systems in the country. Accordingly, successive governments have tried to introduce law reforms, which essentially focused on substantive law and focused less on procedural law. In contrast, the incumbent government has introduced law reforms at the procedural level. In this regard, civil justice reforms in the form of the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act 2020 and its provincial mirror legislation were introduced. Likewise, the Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates Act 2020 and its provincial counterpart legislation was passed. Like all efforts to challenge the status quo, these initiatives faced conventional forces of inertia from different stakeholders. While acknowledging that no piece of legislation is perfect, the very initiative to challenge the entrenched status quo by applying a problem solving attitude instead of perpetuating and fortifying the existing forces of status quo needs to be applauded and supported by citizenry.

Proposed Criminal Law Reforms

The proposed criminal law reforms were prepared by a committee headed by the federal law minister Dr. Faroogh Naseem on 14 September 2021 and were approved by the cabinet in January 2022. These legislative proposals suggest amendments in five existing statutes and plan to introduce four new laws for the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). The amendments are proposed to be introduced in five statutes: the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 (CrPC), Pakistan Penal Code 1860 (PPC), the Qanoon-e-Shahadat Order 1984 (QSO), the Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997 (CNSA), and the Railways Act 1890. The new statutes for ICT relate to establishment of prosecution service, forensic science agency, and safe city authority; these new statutes will bring the ICT at par with provinces where there are dedicated provincial laws for prosecution service, forensic agency, and safe city authority. It must be recalled that the federal government is obliged under articles 142 and 143 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 to introduce law reforms related to criminal law, criminal procedure, and law of evidence as these subjects are to be dealt with as concurrent between the provincial and federal legislatures. The federal government is required to take the lead regarding laws that affect human and fundamental rights of the public at large.

Policing and Proposed Law Reforms

Policing is the function of using lawful coercive power of the state by different state organizations and the criminal justice is the larger response of the criminal justice system to crime. The proposed law reforms address many areas. Some thematic salient features affecting policing are discussed hereunder:

1. Redefining officer in-charge of police station

Police station is the basic organizational and functional unit of police and policing. Aggrieved persons approach police stations for redress of their grievances; in this way, the police station and its in-charge become central to access to justice and to opening the door of criminal justice formally. Hitherto, the officer in-charge was defined loosely. The proposed amendment redefines officer in-charge of a police station in its section 4(1) (p) of the CrPC by stating that s/he shall not be below the rank of sub-inspector with a degree of bachelors or its equivalent. For ICT, it proposes that officer in-charge shall be an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). The rank based reform of police organization is not new however. It was introduced earlier for investigation of different types of offences like hudood and blasphemy laws. Owing to the scale of populace and scarce supply of officers to police organizations, rank based reform has limitations. The Police Reforms Committee Report of 2019 that was mandated by the Supreme Court of Pakistan has recommended functional specialization instead of rank based expansion, which is likely to consume more resources by making police organizations top heavy and less effective at grassroots level.

2. Power to summon and arrest

Powers to summon and arrest accused, witnesses and other people connected with criminal cases is an area that was long due for reform. In this regards, the ground breaking reform was introduced by articles 155 and 156 of the Police Order 2002 that criminalized vexatious arrest and abuse of lawful powers by police officers. The abuse of such power, however, was not fully checked and much was desired to be done. The new legislative proposals introduce multiple obligations on police officers vis-à-vis their powers to summon and arrest. These powers may be summarized here:a. Amendment in sections 46 and 54 of the CrPC:Section 46 the CrPC defines the procedure of arrest by linking it to ‘actual touch’ or ‘confinement’. The proposed law reforms provide that, in case of female accused, the actual touch requirement has been substituted with ‘oral intimation’. This is a welcome addition and will facilitate police working. Likewise, the power to arrest under section 54 CrPC has been rightfully qualified with recording reasons in case of an arrest based on suspicion and with the condition to intimation to officer in-charge of a police station.b. Insertion of new sections 54-A, 54-AA, 54-B to 54-J the CrPC: New set of legal provisions are proposed to be added to the CrPC that aim at introducing a rule-based regime for summoning and arrest powers of police officers. Section 54-A is to be added that proposes to introduce a right to counsel for an accused.

A new Section 54-AA gives power to police to issue notice of appearance to persons connected to criminal proceedings. This is a new power, which must be linked to police accountability to strike the balance between discharging duties and abusing police powers. Other sections add the rights to inform family of an accused about arrest (section 54-B), establishment of control rooms displaying arrested people (section 54-C), right to counsel for an arrested person (section 54-D), informing grounds of arrest to an arrested person (section 54-E), information to a nominated person of an arrested person (section 54-F), examination of an arrested person by a medical officer (section 54-G), examination of an arrested accused on the request of police (section 54-H), and right to reasonable care of health and safety of an arrested person (section 54-J).

3. Bail by Police

Police were always empowered to admit accused to bail in bailable offences. This power, however, has not been frequently used owing to poor police image and excessive labelling of police as a trouble-prone organization. Section 496 of the CrPC has been proposed to be amended to empower police to release accused in bailable offences. This power has been clarified further and has been simplified. This is a positive step but is likely to contribute towards overcharging of accused as, more often than not, the society expects police not to let any accused be released in offences that affect society more acutely due to their prevalence.

4. Crime Registration

One of the complaints against police relate to non-registration of criminal cases. The new law proposes to address this by adding a new proviso to section 154 of the CrPC authorizing the Superintendence of Police (SP) to direct officer in-charge of a police station to register a case. In addition, enabling legal provision for electronic registration of criminal cases. The law also proposes to link crime data with database of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). To balance the free registration of criminal cases with fair registration, the law proposes to amend section 190 of the CrPC to enable action against person initiating frivolous and vexatious case by abusing the lawful processes.

5. Police Investigation

Criminal justice system is modelled in and around detection based policing in Pakistan implying more legal powers after registration of criminal case than before its registration. To further strengthen the investigation processes and to oblige police and prosecution to work closely, the new proposals require:a. Use of techniques of investigation including the use of modern devices and forensic methods (through new section 155-A CrPC)b. Mandatory DNA testing in rape cases (through new section 156-C CrPC)c. Preservation of DNA and its database (through new section 156-D CrPC)d. Non summoning of females, juveniles (of less than 15 years of age) and elderly over age of 65 years of age (by amending section 160 CrPC)e. Audio-video recording of statements of persons acquainted with facts of the case under section 161 CrPC (by adding a proviso to section 160 CrPC)f.

Audio-video recording of a confessional statement (by adding a proviso to section 164 CrPC)g. Increasing and covering in detail police-prosecution cooperation (by amending section 173 CrPC)Law reforms and societal needs go hand in hand. The present set of policing reforms introduced in the proposed criminal law reforms package are likely to meet mixed reception by police, prosecutors, bar, and bench. Nonetheless, they are likely to spur the debate about reforming the criminal justice system, which must be designed to protect life, liberty, and property of the citizens who hold high hopes from the state insofar as their rights are concerned.The views expressed in this article are the author’s own in his private capacity. Originally published:

Islamabad: Pakistan announced sweeping criminal justice reforms to do equal justice to the poor and to the rich.

“For the first time in the history of Pakistan, we are making this effort to ensure rule of law in the country” and move towards effective and swift dispensation of justice,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday. He termed effective and fairness of the justice system the state’s responsibility, saying the government’s reforms in the civil and criminal procedure would ensure justice faster.

Addressing the launch ceremony of ‘Criminal Law and Justice Reforms’ in Islamabad, the prime minister said the massive amendments would “bring a revolution in the criminal justice system” and make justice accessible for the common man. “Without rule of law, the country cannot progress,” he said.

The reforms are aimed at strengthening the criminal justice system of Pakistan from police reform and investigative process to prosecution and judiciary services to challenges to prison management and human rights protection. An effective criminal justice system is a prerequisite for upholding the rule of law in the country and has long been the demand of the public.

PM Khan congratulated the Ministry of Law and Justice and particularly Law Minister Farogh Naseem and his team for drafting the reforms, terming it a “defining moment” in the country’s history. For the first time, the government has announced changes in the laws of the country that inherited its common law system from the period of British rule.

Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem said that over 700 amendments have been introduced to overhaul the existing legal system and ensure rule of law which is built on the cornerstone of an independent, efficient, and effective judicial system. Detailing the amendments, the minister said that the formation of a statute of an independent prosecution service, forensic laboratory and prison rules were some of the key reforms. A law had been enforced for mandatory budget dispensation to police stations to meet the expenses of investigation and the trial judge would be accountable e a high court if he failed to decide a case within nine months.

Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari said “over 700 amendments in the criminal procedure code were a milestone achievement for the PTI government” that would ensure prompt delivery of justice in a system where the wealthy and powerful exploited the loopholes in the justice system to evade justice.

Legal incubator programs providing space and support for newly admitted lawyers in exchange for representing underserved clients first gained great traction in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which left many recent law graduates seeking employment alternatives.

But Anne-Marie Rábago, the former director of two incubators, said even as the legal job market has improved in subsequent years, attorneys have continued to join the growing number of programs assisting practitioners hanging up their shingles.

“So rather than this being something lawyers did because they had to, it became something that they were doing because they wanted to,” Rábago said during an ABA Techshow 2021 session Thursday.

She attributed this trend to an increasing desire among law graduates to pursue purpose-driven legal work, noting that incubator attorneys have historically focused on serving clients of modest means.

Rábago also said she expects that law graduates will be increasingly interested in participating in incubators moving forward based on various research about what drives millennials and initial research about the characteristics of members of Generation Z, who will soon be joining the legal profession.

During her session titled “The Value Proposition of Legal Incubators: Today and in the Future,” Rábago referenced research indicating that millennials prefer flexible work options and are motivated by mission and purpose more so than money. She said early studies indicate that “Generation Z is similarly motivated by social conscience, perhaps even a deeper social conscience than their millennial predecessors.”

“All of these characteristics sound to me like skewing towards solo practice, being able to write your own playbook, being able to choose your own clients, being able to develop your own mission, values and purpose for your firm,” Rábago said.

Rábago has experience working with incubators, having directed the California Western School of Law’s Access to Law Initiative from July 2015 to October 2016. She left that role to lead the Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator through last month.

Rábago has since founded Modern Juris, a community that intends to provide support to legal incubator programs and entrepreneurial lawyers.

“There is a tremendous business opportunity for lawyers who are able to find entrepreneurial and different ways to serve clients who are currently not being served,” Rábago said.

This article was contributed to TechCabal by Conrad Onyango /bird

Before the pandemic, it was mandatory for lawyers and clients to appear before a physical court of law or an advocate to initiate legal proceedings. In Kenya, that meant appearing before a judge wearing a robe and a wig. There could have been fewer institutions more steeped in tradition than the legal profession. Fast forward 18 months and the profession is almost unrecognisable.

“We recognise that legal practice can no longer operate in the rigid manner that it did in the past and that our clients require dynamic, 21st century based solutions for their businesses,” said Shem Otanga, a partner with Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (incorporating Kieti Law), in Nairobi.

A cornerstone of most societies the world over is that justice has to be seen to be served, without interruption. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, limited movements and restrictions on in-person meetings meant that justice had to be served in virtual courtrooms created through video conferencing apps like zoom.

African law firms quickly adjusted to the new realities and adopted technology to speed up the delivery of justice and maintain their competitiveness.

Hope Mukami /bird

Otanga believes that technology now plays a fundamental and irreplaceable role in the provision of business services, with current realities of business practice continuing to drive a legal tech revolution, even beyond the current remote working models prompted by the pandemic.

Almost as if the flood gates had opened after centuries of stasis, the profession is looking to leverage technology to advance almost every manual service in the book, including contract preparation and review.

Automated text messaging, legal tech apps and social media are emerging as key mediums used to offer legal services, consultations.

Legal technology revolution in Africa

Kieti Law, with operations in Eastern and Southern Africa, for example, is preparing for the tech revolution by utilising all workable digital and tech tools to bring its services closer to clients.

“We want to ensure that our clients do not have to journey far to reach us, so we deploy tech to make ourselves accessible, efficient and relevant,” said Otanga.

Currently the firm said it uses legal podcasts and vlogs to disseminate information on emerging issues of law, employ e-learning tools and run tech design thinking programs to equip staff to keep up with the revolution.

In 2020 another African law firm, Anjarwalla & Khanna (A&K) partnered with Microsoft to launch a Legal Tech Incubator to support the development and promotion of innovative technology-based solutions to legal challenges and enhance law and legal practice in the continent.

‘The initiative aims to help budding entrepreneurs translate their ideas into viable applications for the African market and ensure access to justice,” A&K partner in charge of innovation Dominic Rebelo said in a statement.

The Kenyan based law firm has a presence in Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Guinea, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Furthermore, young groups of legal entrepreneurs aged 30 and below are driving the revolution of the often conservative sector, shows a report.

Global Legal Tech Report for Africa 2020 reveals that continent has most (53 percent) of the youngest legal tech company founders compared to countries in Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand, where founders are above 30 years.

“Not limited by legacy practices, this new generation of lawyers in Africa are re-imagining the legal profession through Legal Tech,” Alpha Creates Researcher, Eric Chin said in the report.

The report, produced through a collaboration between African and international legal and technology networks, identified Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe as emerging legal tech hot spots.

The majority of Africa’s legal tech firms are looking to expand operations across the global market, with a high preference for local markets, according to the report.

West Africa is the most preferred (75 percent) growth market, followed by Eastern Africa (67 percent) and 42 percent said they were assessing Southern African markets.

Digitised legal services for individuals and SMEs are also projected to have a transformative impact on African societies and economies, particularly in the post-COVID era.

This sentiment seems to include the legal industry, with Otanga arguing the catalytic effect of the pandemic is unlikely to be reversed despite the push to resume an element of “normalcy” and for societies to enter into a “post-pandemic” environment.

Rather, it is likely that justice will be seen to be served in virtual courtrooms across the continent.

The full report can be found here

Hong Kong University’s LITE Lab@HKU initiative is supporting law students’ efforts to develop legal solutions through the use of legaltech.

The initiative recently partnered with Hong Kong-based community impact organisation Equal Justice and Australian legaltech startup Checkbox.

“LITE Lab@HKU offers undergraduate and postgraduate students from law and other faculties three types of socially impactful learning opportunities to prepare them as future legal professionals,” LITE Lab@HKU founding executive director Brian Tang told Australasian Lawyer. “As a law school incubator for A2J Tech and Lawtech4Good, LITE Lab@HKU students have to date won international prizes for co-designed A2JTech projects like AI-powered data banks to assist injured workers get the compensation they deserve, and computer vision tools to assist low-income tenants identify and report health and safety hazards.”

Tang explained that through the initiative, students gain knowledge and experience in entrepreneurship law through developing document automation and animated legal explainers for the LITE Lab website. These tools are utilised by tech startups, social entrepreneurs and NGOs.

Students also collaborate with under-resourced organisations to help design legal, regulatory and policy research. The research often involves emerging technologies and business models, Tang said, and provides internship experience. Moreover, students work together with the organisations in crafting proof-of-concept lawtech solutions.

Recently, LITE Lab@HKU students collaborated with Equal Justice on a tool to identify human trafficking, utilising the low-code automation platform developed by Checkbox. The project was in line with LITE Lab’s LawTech4Good program.

“When HKU’s LiteLab approached us asking if we’d to collaborate on their students’ project, it seemed like a great fit.  Equal Justice has digital innovation at the core of our start-up and growth strategy,” Equal Justice advisor Victoria Street told Australasian Lawyer. “We’ve embraced and embedded many digital solutions to accelerate our launch-build and growth, our client reach and our commitment to a low-paper environment. The speed at which we’re doing this has definitely been further catalysed by COVID-19.”

Checkbox CEO Evan Wong told Australasian Lawyer that empowering socially responsible organisations like Equal Justice was “incredibly important” to the legaltech startup.

“Similarly, partnering with Hong Kong University’s LITE Lab has been an opportunity to support the next generation of innovation-minded young lawyers in bringing their life-changing ideas to life, providing tools that allow students to easily create technology solutions to even the most challenging issues,” he said.

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