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July 11, 2020

CJP says bar, bench inseparable

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July 11, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed Friday said the bench and the bar were inseparable and their relationship would last forever.

Addressing an event arranged by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on the challenges faced by the judicial system due to COVID-19, the chief justice said lawyers could play their constructive role in dispensation of justice.

“In this respect, we need the cooperation of legal fraternity for disposal of pending cases as well as providing speedy justice to the litigants,” the CJP said.

He said the SCBA had ensured five star facilities at its hostel adding that they were ready to cooperate for provision of more facilities to the hostel.

SC judge Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the COVID-19 pandemic had provided them with an opportunity to develop new ideas to cope with it. He said the video link appeared to be useful for the litigants adding that they wanted that the lawyers should sit in the lawyers’ complex/hostel and argue through the video link.

Addressing the event, Justice Mushir Alam said he had been associated with automation for the last 20 years adding that they first tried to introduce it in the Sindh High Court but the legal fraternity objected to it.

“Even the lawyers held a protest against me when I was Chief Justice of Sindh High Court,” Justice Mushir said.

He further said they were also installing the automation system at Federal Shariat Court. The judge said the Islamabad High Court had done a lot for e-courts adding that soon the litigants will be able to file their cases through their mobiles.

Former president Supreme Court Bar Association Barrister Ali Zafar said Prime Minster Imran Khan was committed to digitalizing Pakistan’s judicial processes for modernization of the judicial system.

He said the courts were shut down because of healthcare implications, which was a necessary decision in the prevailing circumstance.

However, he said, people could not be kept from accessing justice because of the consistent threat posed by coronavirus. Therefore, Barrister Ali argued, we need to think out of box and introduce digitalization of legal processes as a long-term solution.

To accomplish this task Barrister Zafar floated the idea of “Next Generation Justice Platform, which will introduce various forms of ‘e-court’ - audio hearings (largely by telephone), video hearings (for example, by Skype and Zoom), and paper hearings (decisions delivered on the basis of paper submissions).

This modern approach to judicial system will also solve the long-term issue of delays for which judges and lawyers both are criticized.

To begin with, Barrister Zafar suggested establishing online courts at the district and high courts level.

He said although this was a long-term process requiring considerable time and energy for complete implementation, they had to start somewhere and now was the time to begin it.

“We need to immediately initiate the process where the courts can at least hear witness statements and arguments online,” he added

Barrister Zafar also said digitalization of judicial system would benefit the police and quasi-judicial authorities.

He requested the SC judge Justice Mushir Alam to form a committee consisting of all the stakeholders in the legal fraternity from the Supreme Court to the Attorney General’s Office to oversee the development and implementation of the Next Generation Portal and e-courts.

Meanwhile, former president SCBA Hamid Khan endorsed the suggestions made by Barrister Ali Zafar.