Editorial - Judges wanted - Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=33702&Cat=8

As if our justice system had not suffered enough, it is now suffering from a dearth of judges. Over fifty percent of the sanctioned strength of judges in five high courts across the land are lying vacant. Consequently, a disproportionate workload falls on the shoulders of those judges who are in post and the Judicial Commission (JC) is facing very considerable difficulty in filling the vacancies. The total strength of judges in the High Courts is 137 but only 62 are in post and a further six are non-functional as they are facing contempt proceedings for having taken the oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) in 2007. At least, in part, the problem stems from the unwillingness of senior lawyers to be elevated to the judiciary, plus the very high standard set by the JC in order that only the best are appointed. The JC itself is very stretched as it is primarily engaged with reviewing the cases of additional judges who have been working in the high courts, rather than making the necessary new inductions.

Further hurdles in the way to having a fully staffed high court are provided by the tussle between the JC and the parliamentary committee that has oversight of it. The recommendations of the JC are not automatically approved; and judicial appointments are as political as every other appointment to a government position. Somewhere at the bottom of this unhappy situation is the poor litigant, the men and women whose cases are either before, or due to be before, the courts. Cases are deferred, sometimes for months or years, and drag on interminably. It is a legal axiom that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and as the politicians play chess with the appointment process, countless thousands of people are denied the justice which is their right. Instead of political chicanery, we need to see the process of judicial appointment de-politicised and an effort made to clear the massive backlog of cases that is everywhere — but particularly in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Justice for all remains a distant dream.

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