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June 19, 2018

Civil justice: Pakistan listed at 107 among 113 countries

June 19, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The World Justice Project (WJP), in its report for 2017-18 covering a total of 113 countries of the world, has listed Pakistan at number 107 in its evaluation of the country’s civil justice.

However, the WJP, which claims to be an independent, multidisciplinary organisation working to advance the rule of law around the world, places Pakistan at number 81 in its reckoning of this state’s criminal justice, obviously better than its civil justice.

The factor measuring civil justice assesses whether ordinary people can resolve their grievances peacefully and effectively through this judicial system. It quantifies whether civil justice systems are accessible; affordable; and free of discrimination, corruption, and improper influence by public officials. It examines whether court proceedings are conducted without unreasonable delays, and if decisions are enforced effectively. It also appreciates the accessibility, impartiality, and effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

In the category of civil justice, Cameroon, Bolivia, Myanmar, Guatemala, Cambodia and Venezuela are behind Pakistan.

The factor gauging the criminal justice evaluates a country's criminal justice system. An effective criminal justice system is a key aspect of the rule of law, as it constitutes the conventional mechanism to redress grievances and bring action against individuals for offenses against society. An assessment of the delivery of criminal justice should take into consideration the entire system, including the police, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and prison officers.

The WJP says the conceptual framework of its index includes another factor on informal justice that is not included in the aggregate scores and rankings. Informal justice systems often play a large role in countries where formal legal institutions are weak, remote, or perceived as ineffective. For this reason, the WJP has devoted significant effort to collecting data on informal justice in a dozen countries. Nonetheless, the complexities of these systems and the difficulties of systematically measuring their fairness and effectiveness make cross-country assessments extraordinarily challenging.

It weighs the measures whether legislative bodies have the ability in practice to exercise effective checks on and oversight of the government; whether the judiciary has the independence and the ability in practice to exercise effective checks on the government; whether comptrollers or auditors, as well as national human rights ombudsman agencies, have sufficient independence and the ability to exercise effective checks on and oversight of the government; whether government officials in the executive, legislature, judiciary, and the police are investigated, prosecuted, and punished for official misconduct and other violations; and whether an independent media, civil society organisations, political parties, and individuals are free to report and comment on government policies without fear of retaliation.

The WJP also considers measures whether government officials are elected or appointed in accordance with the rules and procedures set forth in the constitution. Where elections take place, it also evaluates the integrity of the electoral process, including access to the ballot, the absence of intimidation, and public scrutiny of election results; and whether basic laws and information on legal rights are publicly available, presented in plain language, and made accessible in all languages.

It weighs the quality and accessibility of information published by the government in print or online, and whether administrative regulations, drafts of legislation, and high court decisions are made accessible to the public in a timely manner; whether requests for information held by a government agency are granted; whether these requests are granted within a reasonable time period, if the information provided is pertinent and complete, and if requests for information are granted at a reasonable cost and without having to pay a bribe.

The WJP also measures whether people are aware of their right to information, and whether relevant records are accessible to the public upon request and moves the effectiveness of civic participation mechanisms, including the protection of the freedoms of opinion and expression, assembly and association, and the right to petition the government. It sees whether people can voice concerns to various government officers, and whether government officials provide sufficient information and notice about decisions affecting the community.

The WJP further evaluates measures whether people are able to bring specific complaints to the government about the provision of public services or the performance of government officers in carrying out their legal duties in practice, and how government officials respond to such complaints; whether the police or other government officials conduct physical searches without warrants, or intercept electronic communications of private individuals without judicial authorisation; whether people can freely attend community meetings, join political organisations, hold peaceful public demonstrations, sign petitions, and express opinions against government policies and actions without fear of retaliation; assesses the effective enforcement of fundamental labour rights, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the absence of discrimination with respect to employment, and freedom from forced labour and child labor and sees the prevalence of common crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, burglary and theft, armed robbery, and extortion, as well as people’s general perceptions of safety in their communities.

The organisation further considers measures whether people are effectively protected from armed conflict and terrorism; whether people resort to intimidation or violence to resolve civil disputes amongst themselves or to seek redress from the government; whether people are free from mob violence; weighs accessibility and affordability of civil courts, including whether people are aware of available remedies; can access and afford legal advice and representation; and can access the court system without incurring unreasonable fees, encountering unreasonable procedural hurdles, or experiencing physical or linguistic barriers; and calculates whether the civil justice system discriminates in practice based on socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

The WJP further measures whether the civil justice system is free of bribery and improper influence by private interests; whether the civil justice system is free of improper government or political influence; whether civil justice proceedings are conducted and judgments are produced in a timely manner without unreasonable delay; and appraises the effectiveness and timeliness of the enforcement of civil justice decisions and judgments in practice; and whether alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (ADRs) are affordable, efficient, enforceable, and free of corruption; measures the prevalence of bribery, informal payments, and other inducements in the delivery of public services and the enforcement of regulations.

It also takes into consideration whether government procurement and public works contracts are awarded through an open and competitive bidding process, and whether government officials at various levels of the executive branch refrain from embezzling public funds; whether judges and judicial officials refrain from soliciting and accepting bribes to perform duties or expedite processes, and whether the judiciary and judicial rulings are free of improper influence by the government, private interests, and criminal organisations; whether police officers and criminal investigators refrain from soliciting and accepting bribes to perform basic police services or to investigate crimes, and whether government officials in the police and the military are free of improper influence by private interests or criminal organisations; and whether members of the legislature refrain from soliciting or accepting bribes or other inducements in exchange for political favours or favourable votes on legislation.