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For Internal Peace Judicial Reforms in Pakistan Are Urgent!
By Abdul Saeed Khan Ghori

(May 2003) We are neglecting the most crucial segment of Pakistan’s statehood and polity which is, viz., emergent need for reforming our judicial dispensation.  While diagnosing social malaise in our country, we ignore that unless the functioning of our courts is improved, overhauled and expedited, the law and order problems would persist leading to bloody murders, corruption, myriad disputes and car-thefts.  The bane of breakdown of the courts-management is the tardiness of dispensation of justice to culprits. The core issue of crime and punishment is the expeditious and deterrent awarding of penal measures to the criminals so as to rid the civil society from the festering sores of  lawlessness and increasing terrorism. 

            The significant flaws of  judicial system in Pakistan can be enumerated below:  -

 

1.                   There is pressure of work on the judges because of the facts that the Courts are under-staffed and many vacancies have not been filled up.

2.                   The legal processes are tardy and due to generous adjournments accorded  at the High Court and sub-ordinate Courts’ stages, the disposal of the cases is regrettably minimal.

3.                   The Government in order to pressurize the judiciary does to not allocate adequate budgetary allocations for day to day administration of the Court and meeting their immediate and dire financial needs; notwithstanding the huge income that arises from the Court fees received from the litigants.

4.                   The case management is archaic inspite of the modern technical advances in Computerization, E-Government and quick case citation through Internet and CDs. Lot of time is wasted in superior courts by the lawyers in reading out texts of case law whereas in the developing countries such citations are supplied on floppies or CDs to the honorable judges.

5.                   The system of Bailiff is fraught with corrupt practices and the notices / Summon are not served in order which procrastinate the cases’ progress. Most of the precious time of the Courts is consumed in repeat services which are at once time and money-consuming and warrants immediate reforms in the modern days of courier services. (It is unfortunate that our Postal communication has miserably collapsed and courier services in the private sector are fast and reliable.)

6.                   If Suits or Decrees are passed, they are not executed as the execution machinery is antiquated and not in  synch with latest judicial developments. Only paper decrees ( as in several Banking cases) are passed which take several years for implementation which is discouraging for the Banking sector in terms of monetary waste and financial blockade.

7.                   Criminal cases are not disposed off in time because of lack of vigilance by the Courts in  connivance with the Police Officials. The offenders of law are sure to dodge and evade due process of law because of the complicity of police officials, lethargy of courts and manipulation of lawyers.

8.                   The detenues languish in prisons due to lack of  timely legal aid and gross corruption in Police department and also in criminal courts at lower rungs.

9.                   Neither police reforms (mere eye wash) nor the superintendence of the Courts can accelerate the dispensation of justice unless the Judges are appointed on merit and through fair selection. The regulation of judges through Annual Confidential Reports or High Courts’ inspection teams is deplorably disappointing and cosmetic for public consumption.  Only widely notorious judges are nabbed for corrupt practices. The judges are a sacred cow for Accountability Bureaus.

10.               The Pay and allowances and fringe benefits available to the Judges of the subordinate courts are awfully low which create un-salutary working conditions and stunning disincentives  for the Judges to discharge their responsibility efficiently, expeditiously and justly . There is gaping difference between the perquisites and privileges  of a judge of the district court and High Court or any Multi National Company. This is the cause for mis-carriage of justice and rampant corruption with the courts.

11.               The collapse of law and order and rising lawlessness is due to the fact that the defaulters and criminals know very well that the cases would be decided after a protracted delay and the highly paid lawyers owing to their face value would win the cases. The judges of the High Court and Supreme Court are also influenced by these heavy weight lawyers. It is often observed the theses senior counsels are given patient and lengthy hearing by the superior courts and they get away with the untenable judgments, compared to other senior Counsels who are shut up by these judges despite the merits of the cases. The espousal of the Doctrine of Necessity by the Superior courts which annihilated democracy in Pakistan is an internationally known juristic aberration.   In Banking, Customs, Sales Tax and other Financial cases  the judgments delivered by the courts are sometimes lop sided which are not over-ruled by higher courts due the sacrosanct criterion of not disturbing concurrent verdicts.
We also observe that lately there is marked deterioration in the standards of judgment writing by the Judges because of unmeritorious appointments while at the Supreme Court stage the appointments from among the High Court  Judges are based on pure merit and seniority, at the High Court stage the appointments of the Judges apart from quota  of the  subordinate court’s judges  are based on  favoritism and political clout. Therefore, the standards of some of the newly appointed judges of the High Courts are far inferior compared to the senior judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court. The disposal in the Supreme Court is swift as the paper books containing the entire material are placed before the Judges and they take little time in grasping the facts and grounds. The Supreme Court does not grant any adjournments too and the judges  sacrifice their summer vacations for clearing the backlog of pending cases.  There is no fall in the standards of the judges of the Supreme Court except that they favour the heavy weight lawyers having political backup.
To improve the working of the judiciary the first and foremost recommendation is discouragement of the liberal adjournments granted by the sub-ordinate courts and High Court to avoid application on mind and exertion in deciding the complex matters awaiting decision. The Judges invariably shirk  the responsibility of quick disposal due to many factors such as a) Lack of subordinate officials b) lack of  stationary , c) Lack of any monetary rewards.  The solution lies in appointment of ombudsmen and setting up of conciliation courts so that the burdens on the judges are lightened.
Many commission on judicial and police reforms were setup but their approach and methodology were not pragmatic and alien to our current milieu. Unless the external environment and ramshackle infrastructure  of the courts  improve, the case management would remain below the standard.  Justice delayed is justice denied or justices is seen to be done may be clichés and hackneyed judicial aphorisms but they are as valid today as in the past.
If we undertake a case history of tragic infrastructure of courts in Karachi alone, we painfully see that almost 40 important civil and criminals courts are located in about 4 to 5 buildings which are not connected and each building is about 3 to 4 storied which creates physical difficulties for general public litigants and lawyers. The lack of toilets, seating arrangement and unhygienic conditions establish that the government has adopted a very step-motherly attitude towards the judiciary, a pillar of justice, rule of law and human rights. While the income tax and customs departments have been housed in one building complex, the subordinate courts are in a shabby environment,. If a single judicial building complex is constructed housing all the subordinates court in one complex , the litigant public as well as the judges would have a healthy interaction. In the modern age the computerization,  E-Government and scientific case management would expedite the process of adjudication, hearing, judgment writing and finalization of the court cases. Is it a heavy price for the establishment of durable peace, justice and equity in our country. Daily violations of laws such as traffic violations, honour killings,  car thefts, unbridled terrorists’ acts and un-resolved murders would be prevented if the courts received its due share from the government in terms of financial sanctions and priority status. To me, in the scheme of things and order of priorities, the judicial reforms and uplift of courts come at the top
It will not cost much to the National exchequer if the money collected from the Court Fees is entirely disbursed  on the betterment of judicial environment and  perks of the  have-not judges. It is also suggested that alternative judicial system should be innovated which should the based on summary trials, justice through local councils (to encourage devolution of adjudication) . There should be a accountability of the judges with regard to disposal of the cases,  rationale for the number of adjournments granted by them and delay in announcement of judgment. The most important suggestion is to re-activate a judicial accountability Board for overseeing the performance and conduct of all judges of all tiers.  If the recruitment  of the judges of the  High courts is reformed on the lines as is in vogue  in U.S.A. and U.K., speedy and fair trials would take place  consequently  . The Judges of the High Court should be appointed in a transparent manner and the public should be allowed to hearings on public media about  the qualifications and disqualifications of the designate-judges .The exposure of the method and practice of recruitment of the judges upto high  courts should be subject to public debate and scrutiny on the electronic and print media The appointment of ombudsmen in various government departments who are accessible by the Public at no cost  would decrease the corruption as well as the load on the judiciary. 

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