The Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday while hearing a case pertaining to rules governing the subordinate judiciary of the Lahore High Court said that judges shall also go through accountability and all those who enjoy privileges will now be questioned on their performance. He further added that one of the reasons about delay in justice is inefficient judiciary. People keep crying and in process die but don’t get justice. He raised a question as to why High Courts fail to supervise lower courts. He blamed all and said laws will have to be changed. 70 years is a very long period all these years instead doing some improvement things kept deteriorating and word justice is now in the dictionaries. I fully agree with Chief Justice that our system is not only painful but has failed to help the needles and provide speedy justice. No one can disagree what the Chief Justice has said but who will bell the cat.
When a patient falls sick, he goes to the doctor and talks about his problem. In response he gets a paper on which various tests are written. Once the patient shows the result to doctor immediately prescribes medicine for a week or 15 days, and if the diagnosis is correct the patient gets well and need not come to the doctor again. But in case of lower courts the complainant only gets dates and he spends some portion of his life in waiting for justice. It is very strange that cases that should be dispensed with in just one or two hearings are stretched to years and in some cases person has passed away when he gets justice. To give an example a person lets out his house on rent on need basis and with one month notice to tenant to vacate the house he has to go through untiring litigation. In the first stance why the case is admitted for hearing? The tenant should be asked to vacate the house after the mandatory notice period given in the agreement. But what happens with the owner of the house is an open book with no remedy. During Zia-ul-Haq times Summary Military Courts were established to try these small public interest cases. Retired government servants, widows and all other categories were crying for vacation of their houses by tenants forcibly occupied for years in spite of expiry of lease agreements. One simple question was put to tenant, do you know the person standing beside you the reply was sir he is the owner of the house. Are you his tenant? Reply received yes. Why are you not vacating his house? The reply used to be where he should go. The answer by the court used to be it is nothing to do with the owner of the house. Vacate the house within 7 days and it was done. Hundreds of house got vacated until High Court intervened. It is the system not the judges that cause delay in justice
According to Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan as reported in the press 1,873,085 cases were pending awaiting disposal in all the superior and lower courts. Chief Justice very rightly pointed out that judiciary alone cannot be held responsible until and unless centuries old laws are updated and amended by parliament. Supreme Court has tried to reduce the burden of cases but pendency poses big question. Our legislators unfortunately are not interested to change the laws because by changing they shall lose the control of poor people. But when there is question of their own perks and privileges all get united and the matter is decided in hours but when it comes to poor people issues they have no time to think over them. One simple question if that is the situation there will be no relief to common man and gradually people shall take law in their own hands to decide the cases. We all should fear from that day as it will destroy everything.
It is true Chief Justice cannot make laws but he can fix the time limit of all the cases starting from lower courts to higher courts. Lower courts to be given 30 days, High Court’s 60 days and Supreme Court 90 days. For clearing backlog cases special courts be constituted and given just 6 months. If there is will there is way.
Another important issue is giving stay orders. Stay orders basically is temporary relief so it cannot be allowed to go on for years. Since it is temporary relief maximum 30 days be allowed and after that it should automatically be vacated. Secondly all high profile cases of politicians a special bench should be constituted exclusively to hear their cases and cases decided within 15 days. Likewise if the corruption is documented only the punishment is to be awarded, why waste time in collecting evidence. Evidence is available in the banks and on the ground.
Another important fact that emerges from our defective justice system is that there is selective accountability and institutional distinction. Same offence but handling of prisoner varies from person to person and that causes heart burning. A convict is a convict therefore irrespective what post he has been holding whosoever he is has to be treated in the same manner as we treat ordinary citizens under same offence
From now onwards just after three months Honorable Chief Justice shall retire and shall be long remembered for taking pains in attending to common man issues which primarily has remained domain of civil administration. The role of lawyers has also come under criticism but check has to be imposed in the larger interest of the judiciary. How anybody can dare criticize sitting Justices. Apart from other problems people face abnormal delays in justice due to defective system that has only helped the rich and powerful and denied even simple justice to ordinary person this has to be buried As suggested if the Chief Justice can fix the limits 90 % problems shall stand solved. Can we hope for a better change before he leaves?
The writer is a freelance journalist and defence Analyst.