HOW can two teenage boys who spent three years in prison for no fault of their own be expected to resume normal lives after their release, thanks to the courts who took note of this miscarriage of justice? The boys were imprisoned under the archaic Frontier Crimes Regulation for three years in Bannu all because they were related to an alleged criminal.
While it is not uncommon for law enforcement agencies to round up relatives of alleged criminals, it is shocking to read that in this case 21 relatives – including the two 13-year-old boys – were sent to prison. Over a period, everyone was released, including the alleged criminal himself, but these two young boys remained incarcerated for three years until the court took up their plea.
The court is right to ask why these boys were made to pay for crimes they did not commit and it is hoped that the administration has learnt some lessons, namely that even if youngsters are suspected of crimes, they are bound to be treated as juveniles and detained accordingly. On a broader level, this practice of rounding up and detaining relatives must be abandoned as it is illegal and also serves no purpose.
How can the legal system be improved so as to prevent miscarriages of justice? In the tribal areas, the FCR is the only law in operation and it made no concession to the two juveniles who were then locked up for three years.
This needs to be reviewed. In fact, bringing Fata and the other tribal regions into the country’s mainstream – legally, politically and socially – is long overdue.
If the police are trained in modern methods of investigation and crime detection, the practice of picking up innocent family members would be discouraged. Many times the law enforcement agencies resort to this measure to show their ‘efficiency’ and it is not their concern if innocent people suffer in the process.
This cannot be condoned. As for those who have been wrongfully detained, they need assistance in their rehabilitation process and it is hoped that a welfare department will provide it to them.