Bryan Steven-son, an American lawyer, social justice activist, once said, “The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, but justice.” The success of lawyer’s movement 2007-8 and the restoration of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary had inculcated hope among ordinary litigants that this judicial activism would provide them speedy justice. But unfortunately, the large number of pending cases in the courts are creating hardships for the ordinary litigants. The pending cases in courts seem like an elephant in the room. According to the supreme court’s annual report, the number of cases in Supreme Court backlog is recorded at 38,913 till April 30.
Property and inheritance cases have been pending for more than five years. During this whole tiresome process, people suffer mentally as well as financially. Litigants invest enormous time as well as money on legal cases, fees, and bribes. It is undeniably an extra burden on the shoulders of poor citizens. That’s why many people prefer to settle all these transfers and inheritance arrangements informally.
Judiciary is considered as the overriding pillar of a state. Its function is to uphold law and order and ensure speedy and fair justice. Indeed, Justice is a need of every citizen. Allah (SWT) emphasizes the importance of Justice in Quran. The word justice appears more than twenty times in the Quran. In Pakistan, seeking justice from the courts of law has become a difficult and expensive affair. The lethargic judicial system is not the only reason behind this appalling situation; multifarious factors are responsible for these loopholes.
In Pakistan, legal cases have taken up an inordinate amount of time. The cardinal reason behind the delay is rampant corruption. In our society, power and corruption are inextricably linked. The individual with the slightest power tries to twist the facts in his favor. A few days back, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had recovered ‘Liquor bottles’ from Sharjeel Memon’s hospital room. Sharjeel Memon, a man with a lot of power, has shown his power when liquor samples were replaced with honey and oil. This is how power works in our society.
Another aspect is the pitiful role of the Police in investigations. The police department has been heavily under the influence of the feudals and politicians. Most of the station house officers in the police are chosen by local politicians through an influence on the government, to protect their local interests. They exploit police force for their personal benefits. Police annihilate the facts in crucial cases due to its inefficiency and negligence. In some high profile cases, police bluffs and hide the facts and doesn’t guide the court properly. Mukhtaran Mai, Shahzeb murder, and Khadija Farooqi and many more cases are the epitomai of weak police investigation system. The problem for the police and the courts begins with lying. General Sir William Sleeman beautifully spelled out this problem, “It is in our courtrooms where falsehood prevails the most”. The overtone of mistrust between the police and the courts are further exacerbating the situation.
The reason for the huge backlog is the judiciary itself.
In the colonial era, it was the tradition for judges of higher courts to avail two or three months of summer vacation, because English judges visited their hometowns. Furthermore, it was hard for them to deal with the harsh summers of sub-continent. The judges of the high and supreme courts no longer needed a summer break, especially when there is a huge backlog. The old colonial judicial system ought to be reformed by the parliament.
Lawyers are equally responsible for this stagnant judicial process. Most of the lawyers have involved in political activities and joined political parties. They prefer political parties and news channels over court affairs. Lawyers sought unnecessary and frequent adjournments and bar associations issued strike calls on insignificant issues which not only delayed court cases but also resulted in the pile-up.
The upright Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) has been in the news these days. He made surprise visits to hospitals, Jails, and colleges. Regular surprise visits help to keep the staff on their toes. Here the question arises, why the CJP convinced to do judicial activism? When a political entity creates a vacuum, someone will definitely fill it, it may be judiciary, army or any other institution.
These days Supreme Court has become a hub of political cases. The Supreme Court judges keep their eyes on political figures, media anchors and businessmen and monitor their actions by neglecting the cases of common masses. Moreover, of course, delay breeds overloading and overloading breeds more delay. Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan ought to show mercy on the cases of common masses and solve their cases on a priority basis. The constitution safeguards our fundamental rights and protects our freedom. If some think tanks consider “judicial activism” is a risk, it is far less dangerous that judicial passivity.
There is a need to revamp the whole judicial system, from lower to higher level. The number of judges must be enhanced in the superior as well as session and district courts in order to avoid the further delay. Courts ought to hear cases with an even-hand. For this purpose, the courts and the police must clear the air and work with collaboration. In order to overhaul its efficiency, police needs better pay and incentives. They must be trained in the model of motorway police. Introduce them with technology, it helps to explain the shamble nature of the investigation. Moreover, the government ought to set up new police stations and courts at tehsil and district level to provide speedy justice.