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April 5, 2018

Frivolous litigation overburdens Supreme Court

National

April 5, 2018

ISLAMABAD: There is a huge backlog of cases Pakistani courts are struggling to catch-up with. It hinders the process of the dispensation of justice and there is an ugly reason behind it; the habitual filers of what it called frivolous petitions.

The intensity of this unaddressed problem seems so grave that around 1.8 million cases are now pending in courts across the country. Some faces behind such petitions are familiar but even restriction by the country’s top court has not been able to deter them.

Interestingly, one such individual brought a tricky petition against a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. The timing and ground on which the petition against Justice Qazi Faez Isa as the SC judge and his appointment as the Balochistan High Court’s chief justice in August 2009 was filed making it look-like one such effort to undermine the credibility of a jurist who otherwise is known to be as an upright man among the legal fraternity.

Riaz Hanif Rahi, the petitioner, may appear before a three-judge bench, headed CJP Saqib Nisar today (Thursday), filed this petition in 2016 but the then SC Registrar objected to his petition. Last month, CJP Mian Saqib Nisar restored the petition as ordering “after hearing the appellant in person, the office objection is overruled. Let the constitutional petition be numbered and fixed before the court whereby the question of maintainability shall be decided.” Mr Rahi’s petition stated, “the notifications dated Aug 5, 2009 and Aug 1, 2014 for the appointment of Justice Isa as chief justice of BHC as well as judge of SC may kindly be declared invalid, unconstitutional and illegal, without lawful authority and of no legal effect.” Thorough research conducted by Geo News suggested that Mr Rahi has been a habitual petitioner and his record trended that he was slapped fine by the courts at least thrice.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Shaukat Siddiqui imposed a fine of Rs100,000 in 2014 and then after a few months, Justice Athar Minallah of IHC fined him Rs10,000 on filing frivolous petitions challenging the judicial policy and electoral system of the country and for withdrawal of security from former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Justice Sheikh Hakim Ali of the Lahore High Court, Bahawalpur bench, had jailed Mr Rahi for one month for contempt of court and also fined Rs30,000 in 2005 when he, during the hearing of his case, misbehaved with the judge. In March 2010, Mr Rahi challenged reinstatement and appointment of the then CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Justices Ghulam Rabbani and Khalilur Rehman Ramday but later his entry into SC premises was temporarily blocked. On Dec 17, 2013, Mr Rahi challenged the creation of a special court to try former president Pervez Musharraf for high treason in the IHC. On April 15, 2009, Mr Rahi filed a writ petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC)challenging the notification of Justice Sheikh Hakim Ali as a Supreme Court judge. On August 8, 2017, Mr Rahi lodged petition against PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s order of forming a committee to probe MNA Ayesha Gulalai’s allegations in IHC. In March 2018, Mr Rahi filed two contempt petitions against ex-premier Nawaz Sharif. On Dec 2013, the IHC rejected Mr Rahi’s petition challenging the constitution of a special court for the treason trial of former president Musharraf. On July 10, 2017, Mr Rahi filed a petition seeking a halt on transfers and postings of all public servants on the directions of the then PM Nawaz Sharif until the final decision of the Panama case is announced was filed in the apex court. All petitions were dismissed and this list goes on with fine of Justice Isa’s fine of Rs10, 000 imposed on Aug 13, 2015. Mr Rahi, who despite repeated attempts made by Geo News to take his viewpoint, is not an exception there are many other habitual petitioners. Makhdoom Niaz Inqlabi filed over 10 petitions against politicians especially ousted PM Nawaz Sharif. Justice Athar Minallah of IHC imposed a fine of Rs20,000 on a frivolous petition filed by Shahid Orakzai who was recently barred by the apex court when he challenged the position of the then Chief Justice LHC Mansoor Ali Shah. The SC conditionally extended banned entry of Maulvi Iqbal Haider for five years last years after he was found involved in wasting court time by filing frivolous petitions. Ghazanfar Abbas, an ex-associate of Mr Rahi, said the issue of frivolous petitions is still pending with IHC adding that the fine was also waived off in appeals.

Senior lawyer Salman Akram Raja said, such petitions are most likely being dismissed by the superior courts. Under Article 209, the Supreme Judicial Council is an appropriate forum to deal with cases relating to the superior courts’ judges, he added. Senior Advocate Kamran Murtaza was of the view if this petition is taken up, there would be many other petitions in line directly linked to such matters in the BHC. "Timing of this petition is suspicious — we don't know why this old matter is being taken up now," he told Geo News. Justice (R) Iftikhar Chaudhry said such petition could be dismissed earlier. Justice Qazi Isa is a man of great repute both as a judge and as a human being and thus should not be humiliated, he told The News. Justice Qazi’s appointment was in line with law, constitution and the prevailing precedents, he added. Since the BHC was non-functional after the retirement of all the judges, he said, Qazi Isa was appointed directly as the BHC CJ where he continued till his elevation to the apex court in 2014. Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Law and Justice, said, "A new law called 'Cost of Litigation Act 2018' has been enforced to discourage frivolous cases as loser will pay all costs to other party. The petitioners would not only pay their own lawyers but would also bear the cost of litigation of the respondents for filing frivolous petition or with weak evidence.

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