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At last talks about judicial reforms

At last talks about judicial reforms

It is heartening that the conversation on judicial reforms has finally started by the National Judicial Policy Making Committee of Pakistan (NJPMCP). A report released in the committee’s recent meeting states that as of November 30, 2017, there were around 1.87 million cases pending disposal in courts in the country.

As pointed out by the honourable justices of the apex court themselves, the shortage of judges appears to be a major reason for this high pendency. Another factor, acknowledged by the policy making committee, is archaic legal procedures that hinder speedy dispensation of justice. Both issues involve other organs of the state, and cannot be addressed by the judiciary alone.

The executive branch needs to consult the NJPMCP and prepare a plan for increasing the number of judges, starting with lower courts where the issue of pendency is most serious. Shortage of funds cannot be an excuse here. An efficient justice system is the bedrock of a democratic order. If we cannot ensure that, then our aspirations for strengthening democracy will remain limited to hollow rhetoric.

As far as archaic laws are concerned, there is no reason why there should be any delay in amendments in these laws. The NJPMCP may be consulted by the Parliament through its relevant committees.

Beyond these fundamental reforms, there will be a need to prevent frequent strikes by bar associations that create unnecessary inconvenience to litigants and judges.

But for reforms to be fully successful across all levels, the judiciary will need to engage in some soul searching as well. For instance, it is quite shocking that the figure of pendency at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, a court of appellate jurisdiction, is 37,694 (by December 31, 2017). The CJP has acknowledged in his address to the policy making committee that cases of political nature sometimes end up taking a lot of time of the court. Therefore, it is extremely important that the apex court as well as provincial high courts devise — in consultation with veteran lawyers and judges, and established organisations working for human rights — a rigorous criteria for cases to be heard under these courts’ original jurisdiction. With such collective wisdom, we can prepare criteria that will make the use of original jurisdiction a lot more systematic, and may effectively filter out many unnecessary pleas before they reach courtrooms.

Daily Times

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