Islamabad — Media Matters for Democracy had submitted a Right to Information (RTI) request to the Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan to inquire about data on wrongful convictions in the country.
In the information request, we had asked:
1. Does the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan record the number of wrongful convictions in the country?
2. If yes, please provide the year-wise breakdown of wrongful convictions and sentences overturned by appellate courts in criminal cases from 2014 to 2018.
3. If no, please explain why statistics on wrongful convictions are not recorded or please inform which agency or government department is designated for recording of number of wrongful convictions in the country.
The commission through its deputy secretary wrote back stating that the commission’s secretariat “is not collecting the requisite information, therefore, unable to provide the same”.
The secretary did not share any information about which agency might have the relevant records.
Pakistan’s criminal justice system has long struggled with the issue of wrongful convictions. According to one estimate, over one-third of Pakistan’s death row inmates might be completely innocent. But, even if they are innocent, the appeals process to overturn their sentences might take a decade to complete. In this context, it is perhaps important that the apex institutions invested in judicial and legal reform collect primary data on wrongful convictions in the country.