State of justice, why so | By Ilyas Khan 


State of justice, why so

IN 2017-18 Pakistan’s ranking in the region for world justice project rule of law index was worst, out of six it was sixth.

Globally it was 105th out of 113 in 2019 it slipped further worse and now stands at 120th out of 128 countries.

It is one of the basic responsibilities of the state to provide speedy, fair and honest justice to its citizens irrespective of their race, religious belief, political association and social status.

Alarms are already sounding loud in the society over the state of prevailing judicial system and its performance in the country.

“Justice delayed is justice denied”. Number of pending cases in Supreme Court of Pakistan jumped three fold since 2006.

The number of pending cases in Supreme Court in 2006 was 13,724 and now the number of pending cases is over forty thousand. Over three hundred thousand cases are pending with five high courts in the country.

The picture of the lower courts in four provinces and the federal capital is dismal with more than two million pending cases.

With such staggering figures of pending cases, at different levels of courts of law, virtually there is no hope for the improvement of our global index.

Legislative pillar of the state and intellectuals in the society must address the issues of justice system in the country at war footings.

No social system, be it socialism, capitalism or democracy can succeed in the absence of an efficient and honest system of justice.

Reasons and factors for poor state of justice in the country need honest and bold address, shying away to face the reality is no more than an ostrich’s hiding head in the sand.

Interruption of civilian rule is one of the major factors that most analysts jump to for the poor performance of various sate entities, but that is only one factor. Few other major factors need elaboration.

Like education and health, justice has been at low priority of our governments. Pakistan got its first written constitution in 1973, but nation continued with the justice system of colonial rule of 1935.

Constitution in book, earned little respect at the hands of political forces and otherwise, as a result country suffered multiple setbacks.

Radical and reckless nationalization of economy in 1973 is one such example where private entrepreneur, who established industrial setup from ground zero, were devoured of their industrial assets over night.

Legislative body and policy makers did not take into account seriously the high growth rate of the population in Pakistan.

Establishment of new courts at district and higher levels in proportion to the increase in population was almost zero.

As a result, the number of pending cases in the courts started rising at an exponential rate.

Then comes the issue of rampant corruption at different levels that exists in our courts of law.

Justice seeker gets grilled at the hands of lawyers and court staff. Undue and deliberate delays are used as means to extort money from the client.

This factor alone is the major cause of the piling of cases in the courts of law. Third issue is serious and chronic in nature and pertains to the competency of the different actors of law.

Factually speaking, besides negligent percentage of genuine law students, majority hails with low academic level and achievement. This stigma alone has contributed the most towards the fractured performance and reputation of the judiciary.

Fourth factor is lack of rigorous professional and ethical training and grooming of new entrants in the field of law.

In a matter of few years they become senior lawyer, ascend to the chair of judge. Then, ethical dearth, absence of discipline, disrespect for the law and acts of hooliganism are common shows of lawless faction of judicial fraternity.

Judiciary’s image has become the subject of common man’s debate after leakage of recorded video of a Supreme Court judge, controversial conversation of a Lahore High court judge with the Chief Minister of Punjab, lopsided verdict in favour of Arsalan Iftikhar who is son of the former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan. Justice Qazi Faiq Essa case drew the attention of entire nation in the past few weeks.

Forced self-inclusion of two judges into the judicial panel and their subsequent support in favour of the accused has given rise to several questions and has marred the credibility of the final verdict.

The most questionable part of the verdict is the prohibition of accountability of judges and their family members. This part of the verdict is not acceptable to any rational and sane mind. No one has accountability exception.

Everyone living in this country is accountable to the State, particularly when it’s the case of living beyond one’s legitimate means of earning. With millions of cases pending in different courts of law, the announcement of ninety days summer brake by Supreme Court of Pakistan is another hot topic under discussion across the country.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

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