The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday ordered the federal government to take measures for the enhancement of sentence on the charges of child pornography and issued guidelines to ensure the dignity of the victims during the course of legal proceedings.
Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani authored the 24-page judgment while hearing an appeal against conviction involving child pornography.
The court asked the federal government to amend the relevant section of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, in order to enhance the sentence from seven years to a maximum of 20 years, along with a fine, not less than one million rupees as awarded to the appellant in the said case.
The IHC judgment, while giving guidelines, observed that in all gender-based violence, courts have to protect the rights of children who are victims of such cases by following the standards settled in the international jurisdiction, adding that the victim shall not be exposed to the accused person or the courts of law and their testimony be recorded through video link facility, if available.
The court further suggested that the testimony could also be recorded through a protective shield where the child victim shall not be in direct contact with the accused in a trial.
“The testimony of the child victim may also be recorded through a special measure through video conferencing, while the child shall remain in a conducive and protective environment, like home or any other separate facility, if maintained by the Government, as the case may be,” the order read.
The court observed that it is not necessary for the prosecuting agency to produce the victim in every case, rather the prosecution can establish its case on the basis of technical evidence of the information technology being covered under the modern devices, which is admissible under the Qanun-e-Shahadat Order, 1984, and even under the international standards.
â€œThe State shall only ensure that a fair chance be given to the accused persons by confronting all the incriminating material, including the sexually exploited videos, images, etc., which is the minimum requirement of law, without any other direct witness, who is a victim in such type of cases.â€
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The order further said that the pornographic material shall not be displayed in the court of law and the reports submitted by the forensic laboratory or cybercrime expert be considered conclusive for the purpose of conviction.
Dignity of victims
The IHC also directed the trial court to pass an order for elimination of all child pornographic data accessible to anyone from all sources and direction be also issued to the FIA as well as to the PTA to ensure that such data shall not be accessible in any information system in order to save the dignity of victim and families.
Furthermore, the learned trial court shall ensure that the trials of the cases relating to child pornography should be conducted in-camera and all outsiders having no relevancy to the case or extra staff of the court be ousted while recording the testimony of a child victim.