I start with a tweet from one of Indian activist Madhusudan Thakkar on twitter on 13 April 2018
Dear Pakistani Friends, Can we have exchange offer please? You take our 22 Corrupt #SupremeCourt Judges including our CJI Dipak Mishra and give us 5 Judges of your SC bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa :)
While some may differ with my observation on judicial activism under outgoing Honorable CJP Mian Saqib Nisar, I feel that he acted as a One Man Army to set the stage for positive judicial activism, so badly needed in Pakistan as it meanders the Post Truth era.
What could the nation expect in a relatively short period of two years? Mian Saqib Nisar worked tirelessly without any breaks and his dynamism and energy was visible throughout the width and breadth of Pakistan. Suo Moto cases to extend the reach through registries in Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi where the bench would move to help disenfranchised people.
The team of eminent Justices led by Saqib Nisar resolved pressing issue and gave judgments in various categories, including those with generational effects and those with short term relief for general public. These include Human rights cases, clean air, clean water, pure milk, Panama case, “Qabza Mafia” and real estate dons, dams, rape cases, child abuse, white collar crime and money laundering, tax collection from big wigs, making government accountable, freeing bureaucracy from political control to provide relief to people and various constitutional cases.
Justice Saqib and his team also resorted to use of JITs in solving complicated cases of white collar crimes.
Though it is difficult to lay down a road map for a robust and active judicial system in “Post truth era’, where people don’t have time to analyse policy decisions and strategic directions, as they remain engrossed in day to day trivia, CJP Saqib Nisar was able to put the higher judicial system on a positive trajectory the system and resistance, it may be important to note that Pakistan has gradually been strangulated by
I would take help from my previous article on judicial reforms published in April 2018 to highlight two important aspects as these are connected to work done by Justice Saqib Nisar and his team. First of all, the State of Medina and its judicial system:
The ideal state of Medina established by our Holy Prophet Muhammad(Peace be upon Him) and his immediate successors was built upon high moral principles, where truth was supreme and evidence presented in the Qazi courts was of gold standard. The society transformed from a tribal orientation to a city state, where rule of law was supreme and Justice was delivered without favors or biases. Technically the state of Medina with approximately 10000 residents had its lower courts and higher court at one place. Everyone was part of a brotherhood of humanity and the leadership knew individuals like the palm of its hands.
Presence of a lower court and high court for 10000 people in the state of Medina also gives us an idea of what should be the judge to people ratio for dispensation of timely justice. Now compare it with an average Pakistani district where total strength of a Session court is not more than 15 Judges and it is looking after the size of more than a million people.
There is a lot of debate on pending cases in different courts of Pakistan, let’s compare with other countries:
South Asian states adopted the British system with three major layers of courts, lower courts, high courts and Supreme Court. A comparison of Pakistani courts with their Indian and Bangladeshi counter parts will help us in analysing, where do Pakistani courts stand.
As reported in Indian press, by mid-2018 the total number of pending cases in all courts in India was a whopping 33 million that is 16 times larger than Pakistan’s pending cases of 1.8 Million. If one looks at the population ratio, India is 6 times larger than Pakistan, so Pakistani judicial system is almost thrice efficient than India.
For Bangladesh, there are 3.3 Million pending cases in all the courts, this is almost double than Pakistan for a population which is 80% of Pakistan.
So Pakistan’s judiciary in South Asia may be the most efficient in disposal of cases.
In developed world, the story is no different. As stated by Madeline Blaser in the Storify.com under the title “America’s Corrupt Court System”, the United States courts have millions of pending cases, has five per cent of the world’s population, 25 per cent of the world’s incarcerated people, and 50 per cent of the world’s lawyers (who account for nearly 10 per cent of the country’s GDP, an onerous taxation of American society).
Coming back to Pakistani, our judicial system is affected by degenerating trends in our society and bad governance. There is a need to collect data on civil cases thrown out by civil bureaucracy due to indecision and procrastination as a large number of cases in the basket of judiciary have their origin in civil bureaucracy. For example, cases that can be addressed through departments and ministries and their service and dispute resolution tribunals find their way in the Judiciary due to cronyism and lack of trust in civil bureaucracy.
The degeneration of society has affected the quality of evidence presented in courts; lying, cheating, forgery and deliberate deception has become very common, even in high profile cases involving white-collar crimes, this accentuates the already compressed time for prosecution and timely disposal of cases.
I will conclude the piece with some thoughts:
The state must work to develop a just society based on truth and fair play; we have to cover a lot of ground. The system of dispute resolution within Panchayat, civil departments, corporate sector and academia has to be strengthened to reduce the load of cases in our judicial system.
High profile cases of political parties and leaders, especially those involving white–collar crime need time and high quality prosecution, since Pakistan does not have an organization like FBI, the system of JIT is probably the best we can have to solve complicated and layers system that breeds white collar crime.
Do trust the judiciary as it is the most efficient entity in entire South Asia, when compared with her peers. While the ideal state of Medina built a strong moral society, it ensured presence of judges at a ratio of at least one judge for 10000 people; we need to increase the number of judges in the system to dispense speedy justice.
An finally, CJP Saqib Nisar must be given credit for putting Pakistani Judicial System on a new trajectory, with a hope that his successors would take it further.
The author is a freelance journalist.