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Pakistan’s lax justice system and millions of pending cases


News Analysis |

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has once again overturned the verdict of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and ordered to release a man — who had been handed a life sentence in a murder case — 10 years after his imprisonment. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa who is known jurist and expert on criminal law was heading the bench.

The court has said that the prosecution had been unable to prove its allegations against Asfandyar during the murder trial in the high court. The top judge also berated the magistrate, Kanwar Anwar Ali, for not following the legal procedure and failing to conduct the identity parade properly and summoned him in person on Feb 22.

Experts believe that the HCs in all four provinces of the country needs to focus on the process of selection and training of judicial officers in order to make sure the provision of speedy justice to everyone.

CJP Khosa asked from the legal counsels if the magistrates are given some training before they join their respective posts. The court was apprised that training is given to every judicial officer before joining the office.  According to details, in 2009, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) had found Asfandyar guilty of murdering Adil Butt, a student.

According to the prosecution, Asfandyar had kidnapped Butt for ransom and killed him after the victim’s family failed to pay the money. The case was later heard by the LHC that sentenced him to life. Yesterday, Justice Khosa asked why the ATC and LHC had failed to “look at the law”. “We can’t ignore the law and sentence a man,” he said.

It is worth noting here that the top judge has recently directed the LHC not to misread and misreport evidence in the future. Justice Khosa was heading a bench hearing Khadija Sidiqqi stabbing case when he overturned the LHC decision and convicted Shah Hussain and sent him to jail for 7 years.

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Similarly, he overturned the Peshawar High Court’s earlier acquittal of a murder suspect on 31st Jan, handed him a life sentence for the killing of a teenager and ordered his immediate arrest. Justice Khosa has noted more than once that false witnesses are the main challenge in the provision of speedy justice.

Experts believe that the HCs in all four provinces of the country needs to focus on the process of selection and training of judicial officers in order to make sure the provision of speedy justice to everyone. Moreover, the major problem is pressure on the lower courts due to a large number of cases pending before them.

The apex court only deals with the points of law. Hence, it is pivotal as pointed out by justice Khosa to ensure a true presentation of facts at the initial stage.

It is important to note that according to the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (L&JCP), a total of 1,873,085 cases were pending disposal in all the superior and subordinate courts of Pakistan as on November 30, 2017. As per the statistics compiled by the L&JCP, the Supreme Court has 38,071 cases pending till November 30, 2017.

All five high courts have a huge number of 293,316 cases, which are yet to be decided. Of them, the Lahore High Court (LHC) has 147,633 pending cases; the Sindh High Court (SHC) has 93,404 undecided cases; the Peshawar High Court (PHC) has a pendency of 29,525 cases; the Baluchistan High Court (BHC) has 6,510 cases awaiting decisions; and the IHC has 16,244 pending cases.

Furthermore, according to the report, the district judiciary session judges, additional session judges, senior civil judges, and civil judges are also faced with an enormous pendency of 1,541,119 cases. Although Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is small in size compared to Sindh, its district judiciary has more than double undecided cases.

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The district judiciary of Punjab has 1,187,076 pending cases; the district judiciary of Sindh has 99,820; the district judiciary of KP has 204,209 cases; the district judiciary of Baluchistan has 13,009 cases, and the district judiciary of Islamabad has 37,005 cases awaiting disposal.

Legal experts argue that the judges should ensure speedy trials but it is humanly not possible to deal with such huge number of cases. Therefore, there is an urgent need to appoint new judicial officers. But at the same time, experts maintain that the selection process should ensure competence since the initial process of the cases in lower courts is very important where evidence is collected and framed.

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The apex court only deals with the points of law. Hence, it is pivotal as pointed out by justice Khosa to ensure a true presentation of facts at the initial stage.