Can Chief Justice reform the judicial system

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CJP needs to clean his own house before he fixes the rest of Pakistan

If a state has an efficient and effective judiciary, the public would be less stressed, disappointed, and depressed. The chief justice won’t need to visit the hospitals if the judicial system is sound and strong. Justice is always the prerequisite for all the activities in the state.

The Pakistani Constitution is made up of three pillars: the legislature, executive and judiciary. Among these three, the judiciary is considered one of the most powerful pillar as even the highest official of the country can be tried by the judicial system. But the problem is, in spite of its overwhelming power, there are some integral issues that the Pakistan justice system faces.

For instance, the judicial system is erratic, understaffed and above all, extremely slow. The situation is so bleak with the judiciary that it has a backlog of as many as 1.8 million cases. The saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied”, holds true for Pakistan.

Lower courts in Pakistan have indeed become the place for looting money from citizens, including victims. It’s a common perception in Pakistan that money is mandatory to get justice. A few days back, I found the touts and the readers at a Lahore session court openly demanding money for doing their duty, and for which they get paid from the taxpayers’ money. It’s puzzling that the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) visits hospitals for inspections but has never said anything about these courts.

If a state has an efficient and effective judiciary, the public would be less stressed, disappointed, and depressed. The chief justice won’t need to visit the hospitals if the judicial system is sound and strong. Justice is always the prerequisite for all the activities in the state.

The poor are crying for justice. The lower courts look more like a market. There is a large crowd and outdoor stalls. But the merchants here are selling legal services; a man taking affidavits, another copying documents for files. Judicial discipline at the lower courts level is almost non-existent.

Another important point is the delay in the proceedings, including the absence of advocates for the one party or the other, police not bringing the accused to the courts, or judge going on leave. The CJP must think over his priorities and should focus on reforming the justice system.

If we go into the details, the problem lies at the grassroots level. The difficulty people face in getting their cases heard contribute largely to the overall chaos in the system. People face too much red-tapism while dealing with the legal issues.

Another important issue is that the judges across the country routinely hide their connections to litigants and their lawyers. While these connections are unavoidable, a judge is duty bound to disclose the information before taking up the proceedings of a case.

The chief justice must think over his priorities and focus on reforming the justice system instead of paying surprise visits to hospitals

All too often, however, the conflicted jurist says nothing and proceeds to rule in favour of the connected party, while the party at a loss goes off without realising an undisclosed bias. Allegations against a judge are commonly kept confidential unless a sanction of some sort is imposed. Law prevents it from disclosing whether anyone has complained about a judge, discussing specific allegations, revealing what evidence might have been presented or what steps, if any, it took to investigative. Fair and impartial justice requires that judges act without regard to the identity of parties or their attorneys.

It is high time that we come out of this dormant state, and something effective is done to make the judiciary speedy. This is important for the betterment of the community at large.

The first thing that the government should do is increase the number of judges. This is not an easy process. It requires intervention at every step.

Secondly, times have changed, and today people are active round the clock. But the judiciary still works in an old-fashioned way. They have summer vacations, winter vacations and a lot of other leaves. It is just not acceptable when we are carrying a backlog of 1.8 million cases. In fact, the special night shift magistrate needs to be implemented so that people need not wait until the courts open.

Thirdly, the legal system should be digitised entirely right from the beginning till the end. This will help in saving a lot of to and fro documentation time.

Fourthly, laws are made as per the societal condition. In recent times, a lot of the laws have become redundant. Hence, it is time that the judicial system did away with the archaic rules and takes into consideration the present social condition before giving judgment.

Sixthly, judges should have clear instructions about the kind of cases they can accept in the court of law.

Last but not the least, along with the judicial system, it is also the responsibility of the Pakistani citizens not to waste the time of law with false cases for personal gains. It is a collective responsibility of all not to deny justice to anybody.

By Nasir Khan

The writer is a PhD scholar and author of various books on international relations, criminology and gender studies. He can be reached at fastian.mentor@gmail.com

Source: dailytimes.com.pk