What is the biggest challenge for Chief Justice of Pakistan?

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed is fixing hearing of public interest matters which were initiated during the tenure of former CJ Mian Saqib Nisar. However, what is the biggest challenge for the incumbent CJP?

Pakistan

The cases pending with the Supreme Court have hit the highest level for the first time in the country’s history. According to a fortnightly disposal report, 42,927 cases were pending in the apex court until January 15. Significantly, pending civil cases are increasing by the day as 23,793 petitions and 9,332 appeals are still undecided.

This rapid increase in the number of pending cases is the biggest challenge for Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, who is giving a tough time to executive authorities on maladministration, illegal appointments and encroachment on state land for the last several weeks.

His predecessor, CJ Asif Saeed Khosa, was successful in bringing judicial reforms to improve the criminal justice system during the 11 months of his tenure. Due to his efforts, 25 years’ backlog of criminal appeals pending before the apex court has been almost wiped out. However, the apex court is yet to evolve any strategy to reduce the number of civil cases. Supreme Court Bar Association President Syed Qalb-e-Hassan expressed concern over the highest number of pending cases and said that many senior lawyers are complaining about the poor case management system as there is no fixation of urgent matters.

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A large number of cases is pending before the courts in Pakistan. The former CJP 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.

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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.

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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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