Source : Judicial reform - Tuesday 29th March 2011

Source :

THE National Judicial (Policymaking) Committee`s directions to the country`s courts to decide cases instituted after Jan 1, 2009 by March 31, 2012 should be welcomed. Pakistan`s judicial system is notoriously sluggish, and this directive, coming from a body headed by the chief justice himself, should provide impetus to the country`s legal system to deliver justice within a reasonable time frame. For while suo motu action and judicial activism may have benefits, the actual business of the courts — dispensing justice in a timely manner — must take precedence over all other matters. As reported in this paper, the committee feels that as far as the disposal of cases is concerned, the National Judicial Policy 2009 has been a success. While this may be true to an extent, the stakeholders need to address the `root causes` behind the decay of the judicial system while reform must be a continuous process.
Cases have been known to drag on for decades in this country while there is a massive backlog in the district judiciary; one figure suggests there are over a million cases pending in the lower courts. People have also languished in jail for years as their trials are endlessly prolonged. So while 2009`s judicial policy may have delivered results, much more remains to be done. Among the reasons cited for delays in the resolution of cases is corruption within the lower judiciary, as well as frivolous filings. Yet legal experts point out there is also a major shortage of qualified judges in Pakistan. This shortage needs to be addressed as currently, judges are severely overburdened. If this flaw is not removed, parallel `justice-dispensing` mechanisms will continue to proliferate. Looking at the issue holistically, the country`s judicial infrastructure must be revamped so that justice is accessible. Of course, this is not an overnight process. Steps have been taken in the right direction; now it is a matter of staying on course and dealing with issues pragmatically.
However, as many observers point out, though justice must be swift it must certainly not be hurried. Some say there has been too much attention on the disposal of cases in a `speedy` manner; care must be taken so that decisions are not made in haste just to meet certain targets. Actual justice needs to be seen to be done. While political cases are important, those disputes that affect citizens directly — over property, inheritance, petty crimes etc. — need to be dispensed with within a reasonable time frame and must not be allowed to fester. As one legal expert put it, the dispensation of justice must be a national priority.

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