Clearing Judicial Backlog

The clearing of judicial backlog has been a primary objective of most Supreme Court benches. In the past two years, the cases pending before the Supreme Court have increased from 44,658 in May 2020 to 53,547 today. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court also recently identified this gigantic problem faced by the legal system at the final edition of the Technology for Justice Forum (T4JF) 2022 in Islamabad. The Supreme Court judge mentioned several initiatives that the current Supreme Court could take to reduce the enormous backlog, which included restricting the shelf life of cases to one year by strengthening the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, introducing online hearing arrangements and establishing proactive data-based monitoring systems.

It is true that the Supreme Court, if it commits itself, could significantly reduce the burden faced by the courts. The Supreme Court is the apex court of the country, and all other courts follow its precedent; thus any practice adopted by the Supreme Court should trickle down to the lower courts. Setting precedents such as disposing of frivolous cases easily, restricting adjournments and the time period between hearings (which are often delayed maliciously by one party to avoid a sentence) and cutting down the bureaucratic red tape by encouraging a professional working culture could have a significant impact on the legal system as a whole. Technological advancements should also be utilised to bring efficiency—most recently we saw the Islamabad High Court allowing screening of some cases for transparency. In the same way, technology could be used to further the swiftness of the judicial process as well.

However, this backlog represents more than just a number that could be solved through small initiatives by the fraternity; it is a systematic problem that has ailed the legal system for a long time. The legislature will have to take initiative too to help adjust the judiciary from an institution where lengthy processes were a given.

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