LAHORE: Almost half of the civil judges-cum-judicial magistrates, who appeared in the 29th departmental examination for their confirmation, have either failed or have been awarded grace marks by the Lahore High Court administration to pass exams, putting a big question mark over the performance of Punjab’s subordinate judiciary which is already facing huge backlog of cases.
The LHC conducted 29th departmental examination of civil judges working on probation in March 2012. As many as 230 judicial officers appeared in the exams and 110 of them failed or given grace marks. As per the result, released recently on LHC website, 86 of the candidates were declared failed while 25 judges were given grace marks to show less number of failed candidates because the LHC faced bitter criticism over the huge number of failed candidates in the previous exams.
The Punjab Civil Judges Departmental Examination Rules 1991 allows a committee constituted for conducting exams to award five percent grace marks to a candidate in any paper in any examination and the same power has been used quiet frequently by the committee.
Interestingly, 288 civil judges appeared in 28th departmental exam, held in September 2011, and only 67 candidates had passed which indicated the poor education skills of civil judges of provincial subordinate judiciary.
Moreover, 24 out of total 67 successful candidates had cleared the exam with the help of grace marks. The Punjab Civil Judges Departmental Examination Rules 1991 further explain that no civil judge shall be confirmed in the service unless he has passed the departmental examination. A civil judge shall be eligible to appear in four successive examinations only beginning from the commencement of the examination held immediately after his appointment.
The result of 29th exam shows that two civil judges, Syed Ali Waqas Bukhari and Sher Baz Khan, had availed their all four chances but failed to pass the departmental exams. Now they are at the mercy of the Lahore High Court chief justice because under the said rules, only the CJ could permit a civil judge to avail more than four chances. Seventy five civil judges availed their second chance but failed to pass it. They have still got two more chances to clear departmental exams. Four civil judges appeared for the first time in the departmental exams but only one of them got through.
Out of 232 civil judges, the documents disclosed that six have already failed in last three exams and they had availed 4th and last chance in the 29th departmental test.Likewise, 26 civil judges had already failed in two exams while this was their third chance, the notification said.
As many as 196 civil judges, who failed in their first chance, availed second chance while four judicial officers had appeared first time in the 29th departmental exam.Requesting anonymity, a senior official of the LHC administration disclosed that since he was working for district judiciary, not a single civil judge had been removed from the service over his failure in any departmental exam.
The official said that the lack of skill among civil judges was also a major cause of overload of work on the courts.“More than one million civil cases (1,075,947) were pending till June 30, 2012 before the judges throughout Punjab. Does the shocking pendency of cases mean that district courts are facing judicial crisis?” the official said.
Senior lawyers have criticized the judicial skill of the civil judges who have failed to pass six subjects despite availing two or more chances. “How will they justify their decisions,” they said.
The LHC had taken the recruitment process of civil judges in its hand during the tenure of Pervaiz Elahi as Punjab chief minister and before that civil judges were appointed through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC).
Former LHC Chief Justice Sh Azmat Saeed had also asked the Punjab government to create 1,013 new posts of judicial officers in Punjab to seep up the process of dispensation of justice. He had requested the Punjab government to appoint 696 civil judges and 317 additional sessions judges to overcome ever growing backlog of cases at the subordinate judiciary level.