LAHORE - The move to open evening courts in the Punjab at both tiers of the judiciary is less likely to clear the backlog, but may likely to burden the national exchequer, said heads of the legal fraternity forum.

The judiciary and the government are pensive to clear the pending cases which have reached over 2 million at the level of lower judiciary and about 100,000 in the high court. The idea of setting up evening courts appears to have been borrowed from evening classes in private and public educational institutions, which has little analogy with the judicial system.

Previously, many experiments were conducted to reduce burden of the cases pending over the years, but none of them worked. A judicial policy, applicable to the courts throughout the country, was also tested to clear the old cases and early disposal of the fresh ones, but the desired results remained a far cry. In this background, the idea of setting up evening courts has been cropping up to deal with the issue. In the past, whenever the government or the Judiciary intended to go ahead with the plan, it found lukewarm response from the legal fraternity as the argument lawyers gave by and large appeared to be reasonable.

This time too when reports appeared about the formation of evening courts, lawyers, legal fraternity did not favour the idea.

Supreme Court Bar Association President Barrister Ali Zafar said: “It is an impracticable plan both for lawyers and judges. After serving the profession for better part of the day, lawyers would not have time to appear again before evening courts and stay their till night to get ready to pursue cases in the morning courts again. It is quite tedious. Ali Zafar said the evening courts would affect quality of justice. So such courts will be forcefully opposed by lawyers.”

He suggested the use of information technology, video link system and other gadgets which are in vogue in the world to make the job of fair administration of justice easy. He also called for evolving a mechanism to end frivolous litigation.

Another, he said, is the establishment of arbitration and resolution centre to employ alternate dispute resolution. Yet another is increasing the number of courts and assigning them the job of clearing old cases only. Ali Zafar said all over the world the trend is to make optimum use of time by employing modern technology to tackle the work load.

Punjab Bar Council Vice Chairperson Farah Ijaz Baig said all stakeholders and think-tanks must sit together to ensure its feasibility to provide fair and square justice at the doorstep of the poor. It should also be seen whether lawyers can perform in the evening courts, she said. She said her bar had presented to the government and the judiciary a comprehensive plan to deal with the pending cases through morning courts, but no action had been taken by either side. Farah said: “Family cases are in a large number, so separate courts, headed by women, can be set up for them. Similarly, the old cases which do not need much preparation can be decided expeditiously through competent judges.

Parliamentary Secretary on Law and Parliamentary Affairs Nazar Hussain told this scribe that the matter was under consideration at an incipient stage with the judiciary.

The Punjab government, he said, would follow the policy framed by the judiciary on the evening courts. “The government will come into picture after the high court sets parameter for evening courts,” he asserted. He said the need to set up evening courts had come up to seek early and inexpensive justice that was becoming tough due to paucity of time in the presence of old cases.

Lahore High Court Bar Association President Rana Ziaur Rahman also does not think evening courts are feasible after the lawyers’ hectic daylong work. He suggests the backlog of cases can be cut down by mutual cooperation of the bench and the bar. He adds lawyers are ready to cooperate with the judiciary provided it was willing to hear all the cases on the list. Rana Zia said the steps taken already to reduce backlog at the high court level had worked and the same mechanism could be put in place in subordinate judiciary.

Lahore Bar Association President Arshad Jahangir Jojha said lawyers would oppose evening courts. After spending day in profession, it would be tiresome for the lawyers to appear before the evening courts and so will be the case with judges, he said.

He said backlog can be ended by deciding the cases strictly in timeframe by placing them in a five-year classification so that new cases do not suffer delay.

Judicial Activism Panel Chairman Muhammad Azhar Siddique strongly objected to such courts and said 92 percent cases were false. He said: “If strict punishment under Section 182 of Civil Procedural Code is applied institution of false cases, the bulk would decrease and only genuine cases would come to courts.

Secondly, he said, judges must be appointed on merit. Evening courts was no solution at all and lawyers would uite against them, he added.