KARACHI  - The two-day India-Pakistan regional workshop on ‘Judicial Activism, Public Interest Litigation and Human Rights’ was launched here on Tuesday.

Views by judiciary activists, retired judges and renowned lawyers from both the countries on the status of public interest litigations were shared.

The conference, jointly organised by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Hamdard University School of Law in collaboration with Human Rights Law Network, India at a local was attended by lawyers, civil society activists, retired judges and media.

Justice (r) AK Ganguly from India and Justice (r) Rashid A Rizvi from Pakistan gave detailed overview of constitutional and judicial systems in their respective countries and discussed the status of public interest litigation and constraints at judicial level.

Ganguly in his speech gave examples of revolutionary changes brought in public interest cases in different countries of South Asia.

Rizvi gave examples of prominent judgments and amendments in the Pakistan judiciary to understand the public interest activism within judiciary and impacts of increasing religion extremism. He also criticised military adventurism, which badly affected the judicial system. He lauded the role of lawyers and other civil society activists in Pakistan for restoration of the judiciary.  After restoration of judiciary in 2009, he said, the country witnessed that the cases of missing persons and bonded labour were taken up by the judiciary, which provided an important forum to the citizens, especially the marginalised people.

Justice (r) Nasir Aslam Zahid talking about the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners said the Judicial Committee had helped the prisoners from both sides by visiting jails in both the countries. “There are 437 Indian prisoners in Malir Jail Karachi, out of which 284 are those who have completed their terms. They are still in jails because of bureaucratic hurdles. It is a violation of Constitutions of both India and Pakistan,” he added.

He said when he visited Indian prisons to meet Pakistani prisoners to confirm their nationality it took few minutes but the bureaucracy had been languishing in jails for years. He urged the judiciary members to play their role and make the process easy in the public interest.

The lawyers’ couple Mukul Sinha advocate and his wife Nijhari Sinha advocate gave a joint presentation on ‘Judicial intervention in cases of communal conflicts’ in India. If there is any party wanted to get votes of minority, the counter political parties use majority votes and in this way communal conflict rises. In this situation it depends on active judiciary how it should play role to avoid communal conflicts and resolve the issues of minorities.

Colin Gonsalves advocate from India said there were revolutionary changes in laws and public interest cases were being taken. According to him developed countries, even Europe and US cannot understand the public interest cases but in developing countries the situation was different.  “In India, 40 percent people earn bellow PKR 100 a day. Due to this there is malnutrition and poverty. A court can give orders, but it cannot implement it. It is the responsibility of the state to implement the orders,” he said.

Apart from this, private sector is being promoted in education, health sector and water. In this situation how can poor people survive as their children are even victim of malnourishment. He also opposed public-private partnership, terming it a dangerous trend for the marginalised people.

Karamat Ali of Piler said since 1971, the situation of the people living in Pakistan and India have been in trouble especially the fishermen who are being victimised by the neighbouring governments to keep their political rivalry intact. In Pakistan there is no voice of the common people.

Faisal Siddiqui advocate, trade unionist Nasir Mansoor, Javed Qazi advocate, PPP leader Taj Haider, Zulfiqar Halepoto human rights activist and others also took part in the discussion during question-answer session.

Prashant Bhushan advocate from India said judges were discouraging to take up suo moto related to PIL cases. The culture of suo moto in India is rare. He said there was a need of systematic changes to protect the rights of citizens. It was observed that police were put under the power of political ministers, using them for their interests instead of allowing police to safeguard the rights of people.

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum Chairperson Muhammed Ali Shah gave a presentation on the prisoners’ issue and said the issue of detaining fishermen in Pakistan and India started surfacing in 1965. But later in 1985, both the countries under mutual agreement, exchanged fishermen and those released travelled to their countries by their fishing vessels. Later due to restrictions the issue became further complicated for the fishermen. He said the colour of seawater was same, there was no clear demarcation of sea border, fishing boats sometimes cross mistakenly and in result the crews were caught and put in jails.