Justice discord

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Lawyers’ business has taken a hit. Or so it seems.  Or they would not have launched a protest call without engaging the authorities concerned first to put forward their point of view on the contention at hand.

The 116 model courts established since April 1 in the four provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory have adjudicated as many as 1,769 cases in mere 16 days at an healthy average of over 100 cases per day yet the lawyers’ bodies have taken exception to it and already launched nationwide protests against these courts with a threat to culminate it on April 25 in front of the supreme court building. On April 25, the apex lawyers’ body, the Pakistan Bar Council has announced that they will not allow any lawyer to appear before the Supreme Court on the said date, warning of disciplinary proceedings against those who would defy the PBC’s call.

The lawyers’ bodies, terming the number of disposed of cases as cosmetic, have opposed the timeframe of four days set for the conclusion of murder trials in the model courts.  “Humanly it is not possible for a court to frame charges, examine evidence, record statement and conclude arguments of prosecution and defence counsel in such a short time period,” a PBC top lawyer said. According to him, the legal fraternity was not against the model courts in principle but that they wanted a rationalisation of the timeframe. He suggested that at least 30 days should be given for the conclusion of a murder trial.

Knowing fully well how rowdy our legal community could get when it comes to claiming their ‘rights,’ the government should immediately hold talks with the lawyers’ representatives and engage them through formal channels as well where such contentious issues between the bench and the bar or bar and the government are taken up.

This model-courts initiative was taken by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa in Punjab in 2017. The idea was to introduce time-bound criminal trial regime.

Lawyers’ fraternity is also not happy about another such initiative that the National Judicial Policy Making Committee took 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.

It is abundantly clear that the resistance to such acutely needed reforms is coming from none other but one important branch of the justice system itself. Previous such face-offs between the lawyers’ bodies and the government have not yielded any positive results.  The government should listen to the suggestions for improvement with an open mind whereas the lawyers should keep the greater interest of the people in mind who have suffered long enough, to the extent in fact that the very system has lost its credibility in the eyes of the litigants.