LAHORE - Many people may have many reservations about the judicial activism of Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, but the fact is that it has inculcated the fear of law in the bureaucrats’ minds and they have become more careful in their official dealings. There would be a visible improvement in the working of various institutions if the CJP continued to keep a check on them by conducting surprise raids.
Sacrificing off days to take up petitions filed by various individuals must be praised, and instead of criticising the initiative other state functionaries should also work with the same zeal. Problems facing the people are so many that those holding important positions should emulate the CJP to improve conditions on ground.
CJP Mian Saqib Nisar alone cannot be expected to solve all problems. The chief justices of the provincial high courts should also sacrifice their personal comforts for the good of the common man. In case this was not done, the tradition would come to an end immediately with the retirement of the CJP.
There are suggestions that the CJP should decide the pending cases before taking on the responsibility of improving the working of other institutions. They carry weight, but this doesn’t mean that the top judge should follow the course he has set for himself.
According to statistics, there are about 1.869 million cases pending with courts at all levels. Of them, 38,539 are lying with the Supreme Court, 147,542 with the Lahore High Court, 93,335 with the Sindh High Court, 30,764 with the Peshawar High Court, 16,278 with the Islamabad High Court and 6,030 with the Balochistan High Court.
The number of cases pending with the subordinate judiciary stands at 1.537 million.
If the judges go the extra mile, the pending cases can be disposed of in a few years.
There are 17 judges of the Supreme Court, 47 in the Lahore High Court, 39 in Sindh High Court, 19 in Peshawar High Court, 10 in Balochistan High Court and five in Islamabad High Court. They can do miracles by devoting more time to their duties.
If the chief justices set up separate benches to deal with the old and new cases and deadlines are set to decide them, the load will come down after some time. Only short adjournments litigant parties will expedite dispensation of justice.
A more effective system is needed to discourage frivolous litigation. Imposing fine on people trying to waste courts’ precious time would shoo off many a would-be-petitioner.
The institutions discharging their functions properly would certainly have no objections against surprise visits by the CJP. But if the system is dysfunctional and institutions are not doing what they are supposed to do, unannounced visits would cause them much inconvenience and embarrassment.
Not many people remember that during his second tenure, Mian Nawaz Sharif used to hold every Sunday “open kutcheries” outside his Model Town residence under very tight security arrangements.
A large number of people from all over the country used to come there to apprise the prime minister of their problems, which were mostly of local nature. Mr Sharif used to pass instant orders.
Going strictly by the rules, a prime minister is not supposed to pass orders on matters falling in the jurisdiction of a magistrate or other low level officials. (The writer covered countless kutcheries held by Mian Nawaz Sharif and reported the directives issued by him on very small matters).
Once the then prime minister sent a provincial minister with an old lady to Ranajpur to have her house vacated from an illegal occupant.
No successor prime minister took any such initiative, not even Mr Sharif when he became the country’s chief executive for a third time.
If the top leaders really want to solve people’s problems they would have to change their style. The style adopted by a former Sri Lanka leader Premadasa could better suit Pakistan.
The writer, during a visit to Colombo to cover a SAARC summit, was told how Premadasa had solved people’s problems.
Ranasinghe Premadasa was the third president of Sri Lanka from 2 January 1989 to 1 May 1993.
Whenever he visited a particular region, he took all bureaucrats with him. He used to pass on-the-spot orders to the relevant bureaucrats for the solution of problems. Thus, all problems were solved immediately and the people were not required to visit ministries or departments.
This model could be instructive for the government to be installed after the next election.