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Tuesday April 16, 2024

Governance, justice system need holistic review

By Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmad Khokhar
March 12, 2022

The state of Madina was founded on the principles of rule of law and provision of speedy administrative justice which made it a great emerging state of that time. No state can progress and prosper without having speedy, inexpensive and timely dispensation of administrative and legal justice.

However, Pakistan inherited British colonial governance and judicial system. Its rulers made no concrete effort since independence to completely overhaul this outdated governance and judicial system which was evolved to govern an enslaved Sub-Continent.

In a free country, the governance and judicial system work to the satisfaction of aggrieved people by settling their complaints and legal issues on merit in shortest possible timeline.There is a perception that people are fed up with bad governance and protracted administrative and legal processes that at times consumes lifetime of a person running from one department or court to another in pursuit of justice.

Consistently going down, Pakistan is among countries ranked lowest in the areas of governance and judicial deliverance not only in the world but also in the region. It’s fourth in six countries in South Asia in a recent published report in the area of civil and criminal justice, open government and constraints of government powers.

This alarming state of affairs calls for a holistic review of governance and judicial system by our legislature and the policymakers for country’s bright and confident future.The present governance and judicial system has further weaken our ranking of governance and legal credibility that in almost every international contract relating to investment in Pakistan, exclusion clauses relating to Pakistani jurisdiction and application of local laws has been incorporated and no one is there to counter it legally, resultantly paying heavy monetary price to the country before the international arbitration and adjudication forums.

Besides Pakistan’s poor ranking in the corruption perception index, the country is also does not enjoy good standing in the world when it comes to accountability, crime, and access to justice.

Article 37 of the Constitution also gives assurance for speedy and inexpensive justice in the principles of policy, but we are lacking in this area of implementation.The present administrative and judicial system should be rectified through holistic measures, not patchwork, to overhaul the administrative and legal system both in rules of business and substantive laws.

For an efficient and credible administrative and judicial system in Pakistan, an institution like National Governance & Judicial Deliverance Bureau (NGJDB) should be established at federal level with the mandate to suggest legislative measures for improving governance and judicial system with modern administrative and legal justice input under a new strategy “Dispensation of Justice” covering administrative, civil and criminal justice system.

This institution should also conduct a forensic study first for the whole of our administrative and judicial system for its improvement and to interact with all the stakeholders including bar associations and academia for further improvement.

The decisions taken by the proposed institution should be monitored and implemented by the top-level authority. Its suggestions and recommendations as a model draft legislation be forwarded to the parliament and superior courts for their perusal and final input. It is also important that delivery of new administrative and judicial systems be monitored and addressed on six-month basis under the umbrella of this very institution and with the coordination of other stakeholders for further improvement in the interest of citizens.

There is also a dire need for strengthening the Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanism as well in Pakistan both on quasi judicial and civil justice sides.Efforts can also be directed for reduction of huge backlog of cases, resolution of complaints within 60 days, promotion of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) through mediation, shortening of time spent in litigation and strengthening of the role of Ombudsman for speedy and inexpensive relief to the complainants regarding maladministration of government agencies.

The caseload before the courts is already too large and many of the complaints brought before the Ombudsman need not turn into a legal dispute. Such a mechanism can be introduced in the rural areas too, and extended down to the district and union council level.

(The writer is an advocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan. He has served on several quasi judicial and advisory positions in federal departments and Ombudsman’s office. Email hafizahsaan47@gmail.com)