The Justice speaks again

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Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa is an erudite jurist. With him being in the top judicial office, many observers and analysts had expressed hope that unlike the past, these 11 months – his entire tenure as the CJP – shall see some substantive changes in the way the justice sector works in Pakistan. He made his intentions clear on the day of the full-court reference in the honour of the outgoing CJP Justice Saqib Nisar that he means business.

Since his oath-taking he has not only been voicing his concerns but suggesting remedies to stem the rot in the sector. According to him, 25 per cent seats in the judiciary were lying vacant, meaning thereby for a population of 210 million people, there were only 3,000 judges available.

The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2017-18 corroborates with the above by ranking Pakistan at 105 out of 113 countries. The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan puts the number of pending cases with the apex court at 40,000, high courts 300,000 and lower courts two million..

The National Judicial Policy Making Committee on his watch took the decision with regard to registration of cases under Sections 22-A and 22-B of the Criminal Procedure Code – CrPC for short. The committee resolved that applications under section 22-A might not be entertained by courts unless accompanied by a decision of relevant district superintendent police for complaints. This decision is likely to reduce the backlog by a half. That nevertheless, the lawyers’ bodies across the national spectrum protested the decision despite it being a rational course towards reducing the chronic pendency. So much so the Pakistan Bar Council – the apex regularity body – also called for an immediate reversal of the decision.

This means that Justice Khosa will face tough resistance from the legal fraternity which apparently is not ready to accept judicial reforms for expeditious justice.

The experience of model courts, with state-of-the-art facilities and certain time-limit for each case, is turning out well and is probably ready for scale-up.

On Saturday again he said some 3,000 judges adjudicated 3.4 million cases last year while the SC announced verdicts of 26,000 cases in a year. The top judge highlighted no amendments were presented in the parliament to make the judicial policy better. “The parliament and the executive should work towards bringing improvement in the justice system.” Justice Khosa added there are certain laws which need to be revisited including anti-terrorism act.

It is time for the government to introduce some structural and systemic changes to eliminate unnecessary delays and rationalise the workload for the judges besides increasing their number.