ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the chief secretaries and IGPs (Inspector General of Police) of all the provinces and Islamabad to check violations of Section 310-A of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and whether any jirga was held in their jurisdiction where the girls had been given in marriages to settle the dispute between rival parties.

The court directed the officials to take action against the responsible persons irrespective of their status, as the constitution guaranteed liberty to all citizens, as the IGPs were asked to submit detail reports on the sensitive issue.

The police chiefs were also directed to submit comprehensive reports showing the number of cases registered under Section 310-A of PPC; and the challans submitted before the trial courts.

The court also took serious notice of gang rape of an intermediate female student, as no action has so far been taken against the culprits. The girl was gang raped by five persons, including two police constables, in Sheikhupura four days ago.

The court had ordered the Punjab IGP to arrest the accused within three days and submit a report to the Registrar Office.

The Registrar Office is also directed to circulate the apex court order dated 24th April 2006 among the registrars of high courts and through session courts to the general secretaries of the district bars to assist the victims whenever any case is registered under Section 310-A of PPC in their respective areas.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heard the petition filed by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Chairperson Anis Haroon for declaring the prevalent jirga system in the country as illegal, unlawful and against the canons of law, which must be prohibited and stopped immediately.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Chaudhry said the provincial and the federal governments had become weak as lawlessness was increasing. “It seems that we are living in the Stone Age,” he remarked, adding that the government was responsible to maintain law and order.

The petitioner appearing in person before the bench revealed that 87 cases of jirga and 26 of vani were reported in Sindh during one year.

Anis requested the bench that all such actions taken, proceedings conducted and orders passed by any jirga, panchayat or similar bodies should be declared null and void with appropriate actions against the culprits, who participate, aid or abet in these illegal activities.

She pleaded that the respondents be directed to frame, amend and implement constitutional provisions and penal laws relating to illegal practices of jirga and panchayat.

Samar Minallah suggested an accountability process for police and said locals were raising voice against brutal traditions of vani and swara after the apex court took notice of the issue.

On March 16, the Supreme Court had issued notices to the respondents including provincial chief secretaries, interior secretary and attorney general but no one appeared before the bench; therefore, the Registrar Office was directed to issue the notices again.

The hearing was adjourned till April 12.