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February 12, 2007

Independent judiciary essential for democracy: CJP

February 12, 2007

ISLAMABAD: An independent judiciary is regarded as an essential ingredient of democracy, stability in the system, peace and tranquility, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said Sunday.

He was addressing the concluding session of three-day National Judicial Conference organised by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan and held under the auspices of National Judicial (Policymaking) Committee. The conference was held with the objective of preparing recommendations on judicial policy formulation and its implementation for improvement in judicial administration.

The chief justice presented a six-point declaration based on recommendations presented by participants after daylong deliberations.

The participants were divided into six groups to work out six themes of the conference in two sessions on Saturday.

Outlining recommendations on judicial independence, the CJP said an independent judiciary is regarded as an essential ingredient of democracy, stability in the system, peace and tranquility. The maintenance of law and order depends to a considerable degree on the interpretation of the constitution and legislative instruments by superior courts and, therefore, it is of utmost importance that judiciary is independent and no restraints are placed on its performance and operation.

The chief justice said professional standards should be followed in the appointment of judges as prescribed in the Constitution.

Judges should be prohibited from earning an income through commerce in order to maintain the highest standards of decorum, he said, adding that judiciary should not be made to depend for their administrative and financial needs on the mercy of the executive and steps should be taken to make it financially independent.

The CJP said that for safeguarding judicial independence, it is of utmost importance that a judge should have complete sense of protection, and in case he fails to deliver

decisions to the liking of the executive, he should not be sacked.

He suggested that the term of office of a judge should be fixed in a way that he can give his honest opinion in cases in which any other branch of the state is a party.

Addressing public interest litigations, he said urgent steps are required for initiating a mass awareness campaign following the principles of civil and political rights about public interest litigation, particularly through media, conferences and seminars.

The courts should ensure widespread publicity of public interest litigation directives through media and other sources, he said. The bench and the bar should demonstrate greater understanding and cooperation in taking up these public interest litigations, he urged.

The CJP said the scope of the ombudsman's working must be extended and utilised as an effective agency to advance the cause of public interest litigation.

On alternate dispute resolution, he said the present infrastructure of the judiciary should be strengthened to facilitate the parties to use the good offices of the existing courts for ADR. He said Section 89-A of the CPC should be amended to the effect that resort to ADR be made binding on the litigant parties and the court should facilitate them in the process.

The judiciary may embark upon setting up a specialised system at all levels to provide a list of available mediators, consultants and experts to provide ADR services, he said, adding that awareness campaign about ADR should be initiated and the Bench and the Bar should play their part to promote ADR.

The existing local government system of 'Anjuman-e-Musalihat' should be made easily accessible, gender sensitive and genuinely participatory without changing the existing nomenclatures so that people at large can comfortably identify with these being indigenous instruments of dispensation of justice.

Outlining recommendations on the quality of judgments, the CJP said skill and knowledge of judges should be enhanced for producing well-written and succinct judgments based on thorough analysis of facts and law. Research facilities along with adequately resourced law libraries, including electronic databases, should be provided to judges in writing judgments so that the reader is able to acquire knowledge of principles and application of law. Exposure of judges to the international best practices in writing quality judgments should be arranged through workshops, seminars and conference, both within the country and abroad.

The CJP urged that procedural law, particularly laid down timeframes, should be strictly followed; frivolous litigation should be discouraged through all available means, including imposition of costs; and adequate court infrastructure and requisite human resources should be made available to the judiciary.

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that recommendations given by the participants of the conference would be converted into an actionable National Delay Reduction Programme through the National Judicial Policymaking Committee.

On standard of legal education, the CJP said it must be brought to the level of education in advanced countries, adding that the syllabus and curriculum need overhauling to help aspiring lawyers in their role of problem solvers, arbitrators, counsels, negotiators and administrators.

The chief justice suggested that the syllabi should also include subjects like human rights, gender issues, ADR, WTO and globalisation, and the Higher Education Commission should undertake responsibility of establishing public law universities for higher education to improve legal education.

Earlier, a senior judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, presented a recommendation report on “Judicial Independence”, while Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar presented a recommendation report on “Public Interest Litigations”. Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi presented a recommendation report on “Legal Education” and Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar presented a recommendation report on “Improvement in Quality of Judgment”. Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan presented a recommendation report on “Delay Reduction; Issues and Strategy” and Justice Javed Buttar presented a recommendation report on “Alternate Dispute Resolution”.

A spokesman for the Supreme Court has said the recommendations of the conference will be compiled and a consolidated and comprehensive report will be presented to the National Judicial Policymaking Committee within one month for consideration.

APP adds: The chief justice also pointed out problems being faced by women litigants -- from engaging a lawyer to attendance on the court to security and facilities in the court premises to execution of the orders of the court and confinement in jails.

"We need to make efforts to improving their (women) access to justice. The female litigants should not be ignored and steps must be taken to facilitate them as far as possible. No society can progress if its women are left out of national development endeavour, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said.

On performance of judges, the chief justice said, "I maintain that concerted efforts should be made to implement performance based schemes with incentives of varied kind which may be linked to annual performance reviews of judges. For example, we may consider incorporating good performance in the performance evaluation reports of judicial officers. Another idea is that a high performing judicial officer should receive a letter of appreciation and poor performance should be made subject to disciplinary action."