The law ministry has finalized a summary for the establishment of special courts that would conclude the trial of the accused in rape cases in 120 days.
The ministry has proposed that the courts of district and session judges will be designated as special courts for speedy trial of accused persons. The establishment of a special court to conduct a trial of the heinous offence of rape is provided in the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, 2020.
The ordinance was promulgated in December last year. Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet approved the legal measure in November 2020.
The summary has referred to Section 3 of the ordinance according to which “the President, in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, shall establish as many Special Courts throughout the country, as he may deem necessary, to try the scheduled offences…The President, in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, shall appoint any person as a Judge of the Special Court, who is or has been a Sessions Judge or Additional Sessions Judge, or has been an advocate of the High Court for a period of not less than ten years, and is not more than seventy years of age at the time of appointment”.
Pending cases in courts
A large number of cases is pending before the courts in Pakistan. The former CJP, Asif Saeed Khosa, expressed his ardent desire to deal with pending case in his maiden speech when he remarked that “I would also like to build some dams, a dam against undue and unnecessary delays in judicial determination of cases, a dam against frivolous litigation and a dam against fake witnesses and false testimonies and would also try to retire a debt, the debt of pending cases which must be decided at the earliest possible.”
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.
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.
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.
Why Do Some Lawyers Oppose Model Courts?
Some lawyers’ groups have opposed the idea of model courts and declared it to be against the spirit of the constitution. Lawyers argue that the timeline given under the model courts is not possible given that the time it takes to frame charges, examine the evidence, record statements of those concerned and conclude arguments of prosecution and defense counsel, especially for the latter to do justice to his client’s case. In a TV talk show Mr. Syed Amjad Shah, vice chairman of All Pakistan Lawyer representatives, maintained the same and urged the courts to not to assume the role of the legislature. Mr. Shah repeatedly told Muhammad Malik, the host, that there needs to be clarity about the scope of the apex courts e.g. if it can create the model courts or not.
Furthermore, during a press conference, Karachi Bar Association President Naeem Qureshi stated that model courts were a negation of the judicial system and lawyers will not allow any proceedings against the spirit of natural justice. He further elaborated that lawyers from all over Pakistan will stage protest demonstrations at the Supreme Court for acceptance of their demands.