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Wednesday May 29, 2024

Delay in justice not only erodes public trust but also impedes economic growth: SHC CJ

By Jamal Khurshid
May 12, 2024
Chief Justice of Sindh Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi addresses the participants of the Pakistan International Disputes Weekend conference organised by SHC and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators on May 11, 2024 — APP
Chief Justice of Sindh Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi addresses the participants of the Pakistan International Disputes Weekend conference organised by SHC and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators on May 11, 2024 — APP

Chief Justice Sindh High Court Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi has said that delays in the justice system not only erode public trust but also impede economic growth and development.

Addressing a conference on Pakistan’s international disputes at hotel in Karachi, he said swift and efficient dispensation of justice remains the core tenet of the legal system.

Chief Justice Abbasi said that being CJ of the high court he held an immense responsibility of upholding the principle of swift and efficient dispensation of justice and ensuring that all citizens have access to fair and timely resolution of their disputes.

“It is through a resolute commitment to this ideal that we can truly build a nation where justice prevails for all,” he said.

Regarding challenges being faced by the judiciary, Justice Abbasi said that the judiciary is acutely aware of these challenges and are constantly striving for innovative solutions.

He said Sindh’s judiciary is actively working on improving access to justice and this includes recognizing the importance and establishment of well-functioning commercial courts for efficient resolution of business disputes.

The CJ said the Sindh judiciary was also exploring the implementation of the alternative dispute resolution act offering a more accessible and streamlined option for resolving conflicts outside the traditional court system.

He noted that the provincial judiciary introduced and implemented mediation as a preferred form of dispute resolution and the Sindh judicial academy had played its role in training judges and lawyers as accredited mediators, and we strive to keep on training people to build this ecosystem.

Chief Justice Abbasi said a proposal for exploring mediation, conciliation and negotiation as alternative methods of dispute resolution got its first recognition in Pakistan some 15 years ago and at such a point it received a lukewarm response.

He said there was in fact resistance from the bar which viewed mediation as a process that would diminish the legal practice. However, he said since then keeping in view of economic growth and international contracts, the approach to resolving disputes without having recourse to traditional court litigation, the ADR has picked up global momentum and there has also been a sea change in the perception of ADR in Pakistan.

He said the bar and the bench are on board which is manifested in the convention and people must have heard from speakers about the positive impact of expeditious dispute resolution on economic progress and about the dynamics of ADR.

He said the ADR provides an opportunity to reduce pendency in court and it offers the parties a less expensive and far quicker model of dispute resolution, opens up an additional avenue for legal practitioners and also as to what role the judges can play in its promotion and implementation.

Regarding the implementation of the ADR legal framework applicable to Sindh, the SHC CJ said the provincial judiciary had established a process for according recognition to eligible ADR centres and two such centres had been accorded recognition while others were under process.

He said the high court also invited individual moderators to enlist with the high court so as to form a panel of neutrals to whom disputes can be referred by the courts.

The CJ said the high court had already established a court- annexed mediation centre where the model of judge-mediators is used to resolve disputes. He said the other centre was in the pipeline at the city courts, adding that these were pilot projects and once they had perfected these models they will be replicated in other cities of the province.

He said that if ADR has to become a success all stakeholders must get involved to develop a positive ADR culture.

Former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani said that as judge of the Lahore High Court, he had suggested formation of model courts to resolve family disputes and more than 90 percent of family cases were resolved. He also mentioned that a civil case was also decided through the mediation process at the Supreme Court level.

A former senior judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Mushir Alam, said the mediation system was not against the judicial system but it was aimed at strengthening it and reducing the backlog of cases.

Judges from Islamabad, Lahore, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Peshawar High Court also called for legislation for mediation laws as well as setting up an international commercial court in the country to meet the new challenges being faced by the business community. They were of the view that economic stability, consistency in government policies and good governance were also necessary for bringing foreign investment and prosperity to the country.

They expressed their opinions with regard to the judicial role in the economic growth and the development and exploring ADR in the criminal justice system.

The secretary of law and justice said that the draft bill of the Arbitration Act, 2024 has been finalised and was under consideration in the law ministry for approval of the federal cabinet.

He also said that some stakeholders in the government supported the Singapore mediation convention, which was also supported by China, Turkey and Qatar, and necessary decisions would be taken up after approval from all authorities concerned.

Pakistan Engineering Council chairman Mohammad Najeeb Haroon and PEC engineer in chief Lt General Kashif Nazir briefed the participants about the establishment of an arbitration centre for resolving constructions-related disputes.

Mediation experts also spoke of the CPEC, Arbitration Act 2024 and the international commercial court’s role in the resolution of investment disputes impartially in Pakistan.