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November 27, 2020

SHC orders biometric verification of all prisoners in Sindh’s jails

Karachi

November 27, 2020

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday directed the provincial police and prisons chiefs to ensure that the identification of every prisoner is checked through biometric means, their computerised national identity card (CNIC) or the Criminal Record Office (CRO) at the time of handing over their custody to the jail authorities in order to avoid impersonation.

The order came on a petition seeking the verification of under-trial prisoners’ (UTPs) identities through biometric means and of their records through the National Database & Registration Authority.

The Ansar Burney Trust International had said in their petition that reports of 41 fake prisoners had come to light during a briefing to the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif on the security situation in the province.

It was reported that at least 41 fake prisoners were being kept in Sindh’s jails in place of others, allowing the real inmates to move about freely. The petitioner said the shocking report raised so many questions of great concern pertaining to the violation of human rights.

They requested the forming of a judicial commission comprising representatives of human rights organisations to ensure transparency in the investigations into the reported presence of fake inmates in Sindh’s jails. They also requested strict action against the officials involved in replacing the real prisoners with fake ones.

The petitioner also prayed to the court for the release of innocent prisoners and for ordering the jail authorities to compile the data of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated without committing any crime.

The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar said the prisons inspector general and the additional home secretary (prisons) had filed final reports to show that necessary provisions have been made at Sindh’s jails while computers and other hardware have been provided to them.

According to the IG, the requisite software module to verify prisoners by their fingerprints has been developed and deployed in the CRO system with all the essential paraphernalia at every jail.

He said the senior superintendents of police of all the prisons have confirmed that the CRO system has been updated by the information technology team of the Central Police Office. He also said that necessary orders have been issued to the police in all the districts of Sindh to provide a copy of every prisoner’s CNIC or CRO report at the time of their first entry to jail.

The IG pointed out Rule 401 of the Sindh Prisons & Corrections Service Rules 2019 (Sindh Prisons & Correctional Manual), according to which it is mandatory for the police escort incharge to produce a copy of every prisoner’s CNIC or CRO record while handing over their custody to the jail authorities.

He admitted that though the rule has been in field since 2019, its implementation has been lacking, so he requested that the Sindh IG be directed to ensure that the police escort comply with the rule while handing over the custody of any convict or UTP to any jail in Sindh.

The additional IG (legal) undertook that the rule will be complied with by all the police officials in Sindh. The provincial law officer said a request has been made to the police authorities in all the districts to provide a copy of every prisoner’s CNIC or CRO report at the time of their first entry to jail.

After taking the prisons chief and home department’s comments on record, the SHC disposed of the petition and directed the police and prisons chiefs to ensure that the identification of every prisoner is checked through biometric means. The court also asked the Sindh police to comply with Rule 401 of the prisons & corrections service rules.