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January 14, 2018

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High court judges must clear cases within 90 days

KARACHI: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday urged the judges of the high courts to dispose of cases within three months.

The chief justice said that judiciary could not be blamed alone for delay in the dispensation of the justice and people could not get speedy justice until centuries old laws are updated and amended by the Parliament. Addressing the National Judicial Policymaking Committee (NJPMC) meeting at Supreme Court Karachi Registry and Sindh Judicial Academy conference, the chief justice said that judiciary could not make legislation and neither it encroach the domain of the legislature.

The chief justice deplored that due to lack of proper legislation, judgments are being issued by the subordinate courts on basis of own discretion instead of following the laws and guidelines issued by the Supreme Court. He said that centuries’ old colonial laws still exist in the judicial system which has to be reformed by the Parliament. He said burden on the superior judiciary will reduce if subordinate courts dispose of the cases in time.

The chief justice said that access to justice is fundamental right of the citizens and it is duty of the courts to provide justice to the litigants without any delay. He said that there was no difference in the judge of the Supreme Court and the civil court judge and both are bound to provide justice to the litigants in accordance with the law.

The chief justice said that there were complaints of delay in dispensation of justice but the judiciary could not be blamed alone for such delay as one civil judge has to deal average 150 cases daily at his court for disposal and he has only 2.4 minutes for each case. He said that it is the duty of legislature to make reforms in the laws for effective dispensation of justice, deploring that nothing substantial has been made for updating the centuries old colonial laws existing in the country. He said that Parliament is the supreme institution and it is responsibility of the legislature to reform laws for providing effective justice system. He said that he will interact with the legislature for law reforms in the country.

Addressing the NJPMC meeting, the chief justice said the purpose of the meeting is to introduce reforms in the judicial sector for provision of quick justice to the people of the country. He said that judiciary has no power to legislate on the laws as it such responsibility rests with the Parliament, but judges will have to dispense justice with available resources and existing laws. The chief justice said that judges need to dispense justice in accordance with the law instead of their own will and urged chief justices to update the judicial academies for better and effective training of judicial officers.

He appreciated the working of the Punjab judiciary for experiencing the expert courts for disposal of family and civil nature litigations and using of modern technologies for reducing the backlog of cases. He asked judicial officers and lawyers to respect each other and make efforts so that pending cases be decided without any delay. He appreciated the role of media to create awareness among the people and asked to support the cause for enforcement of fundamental rights in health and education sectors.

The chief justice, who is also chairman of the NJPMC, emphasised that judicial officers should use all their expertise with full dedication to address the problem of backlog and delay in disposal of the cases in accordance with law. Moreover, good speaking and legally correct decisions at the trial court level will also reduce the load upon appellate courts to a large extent.

The chairman NJPMC urged the chief justices of the provinces to grasp the reasons for delay in the subordinate courts and advised that such reasons should be resolved by using all the available resources. He emphasised that disputes of the general public could also be resolved in a timely and cost efficient manner through recourse to alternate dispute resolution methodologies.

The chief justice said that current laws are not compatible with today’s needs and require amendments. He said he is of firm view that the Parliament is supreme legislative body hence legislation is not the prerogative of the judiciary and the responsibility to make the law more effective rests with the Parliament. However, he said that the judiciary could strive to dispense justice by playing its role provided in the Constitution. He said the courts are overburdened, for example, for the population of 62,000 in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, only one judge is available. Similarly, in the Lahore High Court, only one judge is available for 2.2 million people. Similarly, in Punjab, he said a single judge has a case load of more than 660 cases which shows that the judiciary is doing its best for dispensation of the justice despite heavy caseload and the courts are endeavoured to resolve the issues of delays within its existing limited resources.

The commission examined the reports highlighting the reasons of delay in disposal of civil and criminal cases. The committee also examined the reports related to submission and approval of challan by the police and prosecution within statutory periods which is main cause of backlog and delay in criminal cases. The committee also emphasised the need for investigating and prosecuting agencies to improve their standards so that no one could be let free because of their performance and for which the judiciary is blamed. Moreover, he said, standard forensic laboratories should be set up throughout the country.

Justice Saqib Nisar stressed upon the chief justices of the provinces to upgrade the judicial academies for training of judges and publication of bench books for the judges for readily referring to basic principles of civil and criminal law. He also emphasised the need for formation of expert courts/special dedicated courts which could adjudicate specific type of cases such as rent/family/child care etc in accordance with law.

The chief justice observed that as per decision of the Supreme Court, the district judiciary should pass judgments within 30 days.

The NJPMC also examined the importance of information technology in legal arena. The chief justice highlighted the need for modern technology in court processes and stated that the LHC has adopted very useful information technology in its court working which could be used by other courts as model, which may be instrumental in providing relief to general public. He also emphasised the usefulness of bench bar liaison.

The CJP said Punjab has done a marvellous job while using information technology effectively for public welfare and other provinces should follow it accordingly. He said only Punjab has established an international standard forensic lab and other provinces should go for it. He said model courts have been established in Punjab for expeditious disposal of cases.

Secretary Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan Dr Muhammad Raheem Awan presented reports highlighting the latest institution, pendency and disposal status of cases in superior judiciary and district judiciary.

The NJPMC chairman informed that for improving process serving, the Supreme Court has called a meeting of inspector generals of police and desired that the secretary NJPMC may propose suggestions for improvement in the process serving. The NJPMC chairman observed that the National Judicial Automation Committee may submit proposals for improvement of automation of judiciary.

Dr Raheem Awan informed the CJP that the committee’s meeting has already been called for 27th January in which these directions will be considered.

The NJPMC chairman also advised that the cases in which stay orders have been given should be decided within six months. He also desired that the high courts may submit proposals for effective mechanism regarding process of execution of decrees which will be presented in the next meeting of the NJPMC. Similarly, he said, proposals for devising a mechanism for quick disposal of rent and succession cases may be submitted by the high courts in the next NJPMC meeting which will be conducted within one month.

The NJPMC chairman also directed that the secretary NJPMC may convene a meeting of presiding officers of administrative tribunals/special courts posted throughout the country. The said meeting may be attended by the chief justices of provincial high courts and Islamabad High Court. The chief justice of LHC gave a presentation on judicial reforms initiated in the LHC, district judiciary and judicial academy. He presented reform initiatives in various sectors including installation of enterprise system in which rules-based case scheduling, online hearings and case proceedings, copy and dispatch of physical documents, judges’ workbench and court performance analytics and dashboards and which processes are very useful in delay reduction.

The LHC CJ also presented statistics about pendency in various high courts and district judiciaries. In the presentation, he also showed that the case per judge ratio is highest in the LHC. He also presented statistics about expeditious disposal of cases through ADR and through establishment of model courts in Punjab. He informed that facilitation centres/sahulat centres have also been set up for relief of general public. He also informed that grievances of overseas Pakistanis are being decided within six months in Punjab. He further informed that helpline, SMS alerts, CCTV cameras, web portal and mobile apps have also been set up for the general public. He also informed that case management plan has been introduced in the district judiciary and special courts have been set up on the basis of case categorisation besides courts for children.

The Peshawar High Court chief justice also gave a presentation on the legal reforms and innovations, planning strategies, business processes improvement and facilitation and consultation in the PHC.

He informed that the PHC has proposed a number of recommendations in the criminal and civil procedure code regarding expeditious disposal. Moreover, he said, a large number of innovative administrative measures, capacity building programmes and planning and development strategies have been introduced.

The meeting was attended by members of the NJPMC including the CJP, Federal Shariat Court Justice Sheikh Najamul Hassan, chief justices of the provincial high courts including Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Mir Muhammad Noor Meskanzai and Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi . Judges of the Supreme Court Justice Faisal Arab and Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice (R) Mian Shakirullah Jan, Member Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, attended the meeting on special invitation. Dr Raheem Awan also attended the meeting and presented the reports on agenda items.

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