MIAN DAWOOD

LAHORE – In the wake of International Judicial Conference (IJC) being held in Islamabad, more than 1.6 million cases with some of them decade-old pending at Punjab courts, country’s biggest province, put a big question mark on the speedy justice being dispensed to the masses and effective implementation of the National Judicial Policy.

A three day judicial moot is being held in Islamabad these days. Judges of some foreign countries and Pakistan are participating in the conference. The judicial conference will conclude on Sunday (today), and Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is expected to address concluding session of the moot.

The National Judicial Policy was announced after the restoration of judiciary with an aim to reform the judicial system making speedy decisions on the cases filed or pending in the lower and higher level courts.

However, nearly 1,615,019 cases are pending at the high and subordinate courts of the province, points out a report recently prepared by the LHC statistics branch.

Out of them, the reports discloses, 10,017 criminal cases of different natures are pending at the LHC since 2000 to Feb 2011while 210,193 cases of the same period are waiting for speedy decisions at districts and sessions courts. Since March 2011, the report says that 21,389 criminal cases are pending at LHC while 219,535 are at sessions’ courts of different districts of the Punjab.

During the last 11 years numerous cases of criminal category have also been decided by the subordinate courts and LHC, the report adds.

The National Judicial Policy had set maximum one year time to decide the criminal cases with three days as minimum time for decision.

The report further says 2,432 criminal cases involving the women were waiting for decision for the last 11 years or so. The new policy underlines the need to decide cases involving the women and juveniles on priority basis. Interestingly, 320 cases falling under the same category are also pending for the last many years.

“As many as 383,423 are pending since 2,000 to Feb 2011 at the Punjab’s subordinate courts while 51,591 of the same period are waiting for speedy decisions by the Lahore High Court,” the report says, adding, that 643,382 civil cases since March 2011 are in queue to be decided at lower judiciary and 75,489 at the Lahore High Court.

The NJP had set not more than four to six-month time for the decisions on different types of civil cases.  Some senior lawyers are of the opinion that frivolous litigation and illegalities at government department especially in police are the main reasons behind the huge pendency of the cases at Punjab’s courts.

Secretary of Lahore High Court Bar Association Sardar Akbar Ali Dogar says that sometimes the accused or criminals also use delaying tactics fearing from convictions. He says the shortage of judges has also created hampered the effective implementation of National Judicial Policy.

The lawyers are of the view that the strength of judges has never been complete against its constitutional sanctioned strength which is 60 while only 39 judges are working to give relief to the masses. They urged the government to fill vacant seats of judges at the LHC as soon as possible if the rulers wanted provision of speedy justice to the public. Senior lawyers Fiaz Maher and Azhar Siddque say that the government has never tried for legislation to end the frivolous litigation.

“The burden on the judiciary can never be reduced till the imposition of law against false legal actions,” they commented over the pendency of court cases. They urged the government to make law against false cases and its strict implementation in the society.

The strict actions and heavy fines to the responsible of the frivolous litigation by the judges may also halt this trend, the lawyers suggest. They say that judges should not feel any fear or hesitation to discourage this ‘bad trend’ through punishments.

“The government departments especially police will have to stop committing illegalities and violation of rules ignoring the merit otherwise the affected persons will keep on knocking the doors of justice against blunders,” they point out another reason regarding pendency of court cases.

“A man just wants the decision of his case as soon as possible. He doesn’t have concern that there is a shortage of judges or something else because it is the tension of government and judiciary’s high-ups,” the lawyers conclude their views.