Parliament dragging its feet on improving justice system: CJP

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Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Saturday regretted that the justice system is ‘unfortunately’ not among government’s priorities and the parliament seems to be dragging its feet on acting swiftly to address imbalances and deficiencies in the judiciary.

“Provision of justice is not just the judiciary’s job, the legislature has to do its part as well,” he said while addressing a gathering in Islamabad. He pointed out that the judiciary is responsible for serving prompt justice and assured that every possible step is being taken to avoid delays. “However, it is unfortunate that parliament has not been paying attention to the legislative matters. Up till now, we have already sent 70 reports to parliament and the law ministry,” he regretted.

The top judge said no amendments were presented in the parliament to make the judicial system better. “The parliament and the executive should work towards bringing improvement in the justice system,” he said, adding that there are certain laws which need to be revisited. “The Anti-terrorism Act (ATA) can be applied to anything under the sun. From theft to rape, the law can be applied to any crime in the country. The Supreme Court created a seven-judge bench to review the ATA and a judgement has been reserved on the matter, so I will not say more – but clarifying the ATA should have been the parliament’s job,” the chief justice said while furnishing an example.

“It is the state’s responsibility to provide cheap and swift justice to the people. Various experiments have been done in the past to lessen the span of time taken to rule on cases. Sometimes laws were amended and at other times it was suggested that we ‘do more’,” he continued. “But, we can’t tell judges to do more. The amount of work our judges are doing here, no one is doing anywhere in the world. A total of 3,000 judges are appointed in the country. Last year 34 million cases were wrapped up by our courts – what more can the judges do?” he asked.

On punctuality, the top judge quoted Britain and the United States, maintaining that developed nations follow a strict timeline. “The US Supreme Court wraps 80 to 90 cases every year. The Supreme Court in the United Kingdom wraps up 100 cases each year. The Supreme Court of Pakistan wrapped up 26,000 cases last year,” he pointed out, stressing the fact that the judiciary in Pakistan is highly overburdened.

Suggesting a solution to the matter, the chief justice said, “The way [to fix this] is to fix the causes of delay in judgements. The parliament should look over laws to see how judicial review can be made better.” “Why are inheritance claims made on the basis of police reports?” he asked. “If NADRA were to compile family trees, people would be able to get claim certificates on the push of a button, eliminating millions of man-hours of court work. The role of police in civil cases is inexplicable. This was brought to the government’s notice though the attorney general. The parliament needs to take a look at the laws enacted by it,” he added.

“Model courts, with a purpose to remove hindrances that cause delay, have been established to ensure speedy justice,” he stated. “If a lawyer cannot appear, his junior will be appointed, if the plaintiff is not present an alternative way will be found. We will ensure chemical examiners and forensic authorities submit the report in a fixed time,” he said. “Time should be fixed for cases according to the judicial policy. Every possible step should be taken to remove the postponement in cases. We have tried to impress upon the police to ensure that investigations are completed within the given time frame and then challans are timely presented before the courts,” he added.