Pakistan is a country having a population of more than 220 million people. The majority of the population consists of youth. Urbanization is taking place at a breath-taking speed. The judicial system in Pakistan is loaded with heavy pendency of cases. More than 2.1 million cases are pending adjudication throughout Pakistan.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has a pendency of more than 50,000 cases. It usually takes more than three decades for a suit to be decided, starting from the lower court to final disposal from the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan. Such lengthy litigation can only be afforded by people with deep pockets or having income from unjustifiable sources.
In cases involving the common man, the litigant either loses hope if he is lucky to stay alive during the pendency of litigation or he makes an out of court settlement with the other party or else he or his next generation is not able to pursue the case being dejected with the system.
This results in despondency. The cost of litigation has become enormous. Good lawyers with face recognition are charging exorbitant fees starting from 2.5 million to 50 million to appear in High Courts or Supreme Courts. Still, the cases take decades to reach final conclusions.
A large number of the cases pending in various courts of Pakistan are frivolous in nature. They have been filed by those litigants who are well aware that due to a huge backlog of cases in courts, the matter will linger on for decades. Once they are able to obtain a stay order, they will be able to have a safe passage for a long time thereby hiding their crime behind the stay order and forcing the other party for out of court settlement on their terms.
Government revenue amounting to billions of rupees is stuck up in litigation
Cases involving land and construction matters amounting to trillions of rupees are yet to see their final disposal. Even banks are not keen to lend money to the private sector except a few business houses due to the time taken by courts to decide the default cases. Big businesses in Pakistan are actively engaged in cartels as they are well aware that they can get away with any penalty imposed by the Competition Commission of Pakistan by hiring top legal minds.
One such example is the penalty imposed on the cement and sugar industries. Imagine how much economic activity, foreign investment, and employment can be generated if these cases are decided in three to six months.
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Even a country like Afghanistan was able to bring crime to a minimum level during the previous Taliban Regime as cases were decided in the shortest possible time and with minimum cost and penalties imposed. Results were astonishing crime rate dropped, number of litigations dropped, and people had to think hard before planning for any kind of activity which was against the law.
I have penned how delayed justice is adversely affecting various segments of our society. If one writes in detail, a complete book with volumes can be written. However, if our country’s judiciary is focused on resolving the long pending cases, Pakistan will altogether become a different country to live and work in. It will give a ray of hope to Pakistanis.
Following are a few steps that need to be taken on an immediate basis to achieve desired results.
- Immediate filling of vacant judicial positions.
- Doubling the number of judges.
- Ensuring that courts work in two shifts like how schools work in two shifts.
- Creation of a separate Constitutional Court.
- Revisiting article 184(3) of the constitution of Pakistan. The suo motto cases to be heard by at least five senior-most Supreme Court judges and the appeal against any order shall be heard and decided by a full bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
- Cases to be decided within six months of filling on all judicial levels.
- In cases where it is necessary to grant stay orders, they must be heard and decided on a day-to-day basis.
- Technology to be available for the bar, bench and litigant. Online hearings shall be encouraged.
- Mechanism for accountability of judicial officers and lawyers for delays in court proceedings or delayed judgments.
- Restriction on the maximum number of cases that law firms or individual lawyers can take at any given time.
- Alternate dispute resolution mechanisms must be introduced and encouraged.
- Periodic training of all judicial officers.
In Pakistan, there are plenty of judicial brains which are ready to collectively prepare a document that is practical and acceptable to all. In this regard, the initiative has to be taken by the Supreme Court itself, as no political government has the wherewithal to ignite a debate on such sensitive issues.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan can create history by opening and leading the process of judicial reforms in the best interest of Pakistan. Millions of Pakistanis are looking at him to change the destiny of our beloved country. We wish him and his brother judges best of luck.