Islamabad will be hosting a three-day international judicial conference from April 13-15, which will be attended by jurists, judges and legal experts from the USA, Afghanistan, UK, South Africa, Australia, France, India, Maldives, Judges of Supreme Court of Pakistan, provincial high courts and members of the Bar Council of Pakistan. The event being organised and hosted by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan at the initiative of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
At a time when the judiciary in Pakistan, under the stewardship of the CJ, is passing through a transitory phase in regards to consolidating the independence of judiciary, the international judicial conference if of great significance from the perspective of strengthening and accelerating the process by benefiting from the experience of the judges, jurists and people associated with the dispensation of justice in other countries and also to harmonise our judicial system with the practices and concepts of justice at the global level. It will also help our judges and legal experts to update themselves on how the issues of legal paramount importance are approached and settled, the evolution occurring in the principles of jurisprudence and legal practices at the international level. The conference is likely to deliberate on themes like - Role of Judiciary in Promotion of a Culture of Tolerance, Terrorism and Money Laundering, Role of Judiciary in Good Governance, Alternate Dispute Resolution and International Arbitration, Judicial Education, Parental Child Abduction and Transnational Jurisdiction, Environmental Law and Public Litigation, Gender bias and Issus Judicial Empathy.
The judicial system in any country is of paramount importance and it is a well settled principle that justice is not only to be done but it should be seen to be done. The ultimate purpose of justice is to ensure peace, amity, tolerance and promotion of well being of the society. During the World War II when Sir Winston Churchil was asked whether Britain will win the war or not? He put a counter question to his interlocutor asking, is the judiciary in Britain operating independently and doing justice? The answer was yes. He said then we will win the war. His confidence actually stemmed from the fact that a society where justice is done in a transparent and independent manner and the people have faith in the judicial system, it cannot be defeated.
The judiciary derives its powers from the constitution. But despite the constitutional provisions guaranteeing judicial independence and expeditious dispensation of justice and ensuring fair trial of the individuals having a brush with the law, the problem of wrongful convictions and miscarriage of justice plagues legal systems around the world. However, it is not the courts alone that can ensure that the outcomes produced by the legal system are just. The statutory provisions providing for procedural and substantive justice, the law enforcement agencies and state attorneys in charge of prosecution and the judges overseeing adjudication, all contribute to the quality of justice produced. And thus all three branches of government, the executive, the judiciary and the legislature are responsible for the judicial outcomes.
In Islam justice is a sacred obligation, which is to be performed in conformity with the dictates of Allah in the most sincere and purposeful manner. It is a divine duty. Our constitution also guarantees the independence judiciary and prevents interference by the executive in the affairs of the judiciary. Article 37(d) of the constitution mandates “The state shall ensure inexpensive and expeditious justice.” Unfortunately our judicial system has also been suffering from a slew of procedural and administrative inadequacies, corruption, inordinate delays in decisions due to ever increasing cases of litigation and the archaic laws incongruous with the changed social environment. Societies are all the time undergoing transformation necessitated by the emerging social realities depending on the degree of their own dynamism. No judicial system can survive or achieve desired results if it is not reformed in the light of the changing needs of the society.
It is however heartening to note that the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has shown an unflinching commitment to reform the judicial system. The Supreme Court has given landmark decisions since its revival asserting its independence as per constitution and those decisions now form the guidelines for the subordinate judiciary. Not only that the CJ also has been instrumental to the convening of two National Judicial Conferences under the auspices of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee. These conferences provided a platform to all the stakeholders in the judicial system to share their thoughts on the legal and judicial problems afflicting the judicial system and to devise new ways and means for resolving them and making the system responsive to the new social realities. The recommendations firmed up as a consequence of the deliberations of these conferences have helped in framing a new judicial policy. In the light of this policy improvements have been made in the trial procedures as well as appointment of the judicial officers. Efforts are also on the anvil to improve qualifications, knowledge, conduct and efficiency of the judicial officers through pre-service and in-service training in the judicial academies. For quick disposal of cases special techniques like recording of evidence through commission and adoption of ADR have been employed.
To bring transparency in the judicial proceedings and eradication of corruption, policy of zero tolerance has been adopted. The performance of judicial officers and court staff is strictly monitored and the High Courts have dismissed a number of judges and court staff involved in the corrupt practices. Furthermore committees have been constituted comprising Chief Justice Peshawar High Court, Chief Justice Islamabad High Court and Registrar Supreme Court of Pakistan to review the performance of Criminal District Coordination Committee and suggest measures for curbing corruption amongst the Para legal staff. The National Judicial Policy has also set certain goals to consider the cases of deserving under-trial prisoners and convicts to extend the benefits of Probation Ordinance 1960 and Good Conduct Prisoners Probation Release Act 1926 and more than 40,000 prisoners have been released on probation under this arrangement. Similarly to check inordinate delays in the submission of challans by the police the district police officers have been directed to ensure the submission of challans within the prescribed statutory period. Under this policy action has been taken against more than sixteen thousand delinquent officers.
The National Judicial Conference have now become an annual feature to ensure a sustained process of review and reform in the judicial system. The convening of the international judicial conference at this juncture will certainly benefit our judicial system.