Administering justice

February 18, 2024

The judicial system is overburdened due to vacant seats in higher judiciary

Administering justice


It is as if in Pakistan, we have never realised the true significance of justice in a society. Efficient administration of justice is crucial for all societies as it ensures fairness, equality and protection of individual rights. It promotes social harmony by addressing grievances, resolving conflicts and maintaining a balance that binds a stable society. In the absence of effective forums for justice, a society risks inequality, mistrust and social unrest, hindering its overall well-being and progress. Unfortunately, such a situation is currently prevailing in our society.

Lahore High Court holds a significant place in the country’s justice system. As one of the country’s oldest courts, it plays a crucial role in upholding justice, interpreting laws and ensuring the protection of fundamental rights. The court’s rulings set legal precedents, guide lower courts and contribute to the development of a fair and equitable and transparent legal system. Its jurisdiction extends over a vast, populous and influential region.

Lahore High Court’s strength has been fixed by the government at 60 judges. These days, the court is overburdened as it is working with only 40 judges. This huge shortage of judges in the LHC can have substantial repercussions for the judicial system. At a minimum, this deficit may lead to delays in the disposition of cases, raising the backlog of pending matters and increased burden on the serving judges. It could also hinder the delivery of justice by affecting the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the legal process. To maintain a robust judicial system, addressing the shortage of judges is necessary. Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, the honourable chief justice of Lahore High Court should take serious notice of the shortage and expedite the process of new appointments against vacant seats before his retirement on March 7.

The grave situation in the LHC also deserves the attention of the honourable chief justice of Pakistan, Justice Qazi Faez Isa. The CJP has the authority to address systemic issues in the Judiciary. He can play a role in initiating measures for appointment of judges. Drawing attention to this matter could lead to actions that help strengthen the judicial system and ensure its smooth functioning.

This crisis also warrants the immediate attention of the caretaker government. The Judiciary is a key component of a functional democracy. A shortfall in judicial resources can impact and disturb the timely delivery of justice. There is an urgent need to address this important issue in a collaborative manner. Advocating for the allocation of resources, funding and appointment of additional judges can contribute to enhancing the court’s capacity and consequently the overall efficiency of the judicial system.

Any weakness in a judicial system can lead to a deterioration of the society. The administration of justice is a fundamental pillar that upholds fairness, equality and rule of law. Without it, the society risks social unrest, severe inequality and a breakdown of trust in state institutions. Injustice can breed resentment, erode social cohesion and create an environment where conflicts escalate. Thus the presence of a just legal system is crucial for the stability, prosperity and well-being of a society.

Pakistan is currently facing many challenges, including economic, social and political issues. These challenges include economic disparities, security concerns and governance issues. It is crucial for the government, state institutions and the society to work collaboratively to address these challenges and implement effective solutions. Prioritising justice, good governance and inclusive policies can contribute to stability and progress and fostering a more resilient and prosperous future for the country.

There is an urgent need of judicial reforms in Pakistan. Almost every politician has issued a statement over this issue, but no practical step has been taken in this regards. Comprehensive reforms can strengthen the rule of law, instill public confidence and contribute significantly to the overall development and stability of the country’s legal framework.

A weak justice system can by default contribute to an increase in corruption that is destroying the society. A robust and efficient judicial system acts as a deterrent to corruption by holding individuals accountable for their actions. When the justice system is perceived as ineffective or slow, it may create an environment where corrupt practices flourish. Wrongdoers might believe that they can act with impunity and be encouraged in their evil ways. Strengthening the justice system through reforms, transparency and timely resolution of cases is crucial for combating the core issue of corruption and promoting a fair and just society.

Recent global rankings of judicial systems have revealed the weaknesses of our judicial system. Both our lawyers and judges should think about how to bring about improvements. This might include early inclusion of advanced information technology tools.

Aligning the judicial strength with the size of our population is imperative. There is need probably to enhance the allocated strength of all High Courts. Three seats are also vacant in the Supreme Court of Pakistan following the resignation of Justices Mazhair Ali Naqvi and Ijaz-ul Ahsan and the retirement Justice Umar Atta Bandial. These seats should be filled without any delay. Efforts should be made to improve the judicial system by focusing not only on increasing the numbers but also by enhancing the system’s overall efficiency, leveraging technology and implementing reforms to address the specific needs and challenges of the legal landscape. The goal is to ensure that the judicial system effectively eliminates the fear of injustice and provides a fair opportunity to every citizen of Pakistan to flourish.

The writer is an advocate of Supreme Court of Pakistan, a professor of law and a member of the International Bar Association, London. 

Administering justice