ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Monday said that justice cannot be delivered and fundamental rights of the people cannot be protected unless the judges are fully independent and are not under external pressure.

The Chief Justice stated this while addressing the opening ceremony of new Judicial Year 2020-21 held at courtroom No1 of the Supreme Court building. Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan, Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council Abid Saqi and President Supreme Court Bar Association Syed Qalb e Hassan Shah also addressed the ceremony. 

Justice Gulzar said that under the constitution and the law, no one is allowed to undermine the independence of judiciary. He further said, “Every judge of the superior Judiciary is under solemn oath, inter alia, to discharge the duties honestly to the best of his ability and faithfully in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and, in all circumstances, to do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”

The Chief Justice remarked, “I must say that it is not only a privilege to be a Judge but a heavy duty is cast upon judges, even under the oath, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and not allow their personal interest to influence the official conduct or official decisions.”

“I would like to conclude with an assurance that in the times to come, the judiciary at all levels shall continue to strive to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution, to foster justice in all circumstances and to ensure rule of law in the country,” the CJP concluded.

Justice Gulzar stated that due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic this year has been one of the most challenging in the country’s history. Besides, having been faced with other challenges, like, delay in disposal of cases, the pandemic posed a severe, unseen and intricate challenge to the Court’s ability to function. The effect of COVID-19 was enormous and despite best efforts to reduce the backlog of cases, the number of pending cases has increased slightly.

He told that at the beginning of the Judicial Year, total 42,138 cases were pending. During the pre COVID-19 period, about 8,817 fresh cases were instituted while about 6,752 cases were decided. During post COVID-19 period, 7,046 cases were filed while 5,792 cases were decided, leaving the closing balance of 45455 cases. About 12,544 cases were disposed of during the previous judicial year, he added.

Justice Gulzar said that the main contributory factor towards the delay in disposal of cases was adjournments. One of the causes for adjournments was that the advocates at time were not able to reach the Court at Islamabad on account of their personal reasons, including, the engagements at their own station. In order to overcome this problem and to provide expeditious and inexpensive justice to the litigants, the cases were heard through e-Court system. Initially, the facility of video-link connectivity was available only at Branch Registry Karachi, but it was extended to all the Branch Registries. The video-link facility will continue to benefit lawyers and litigants in saving their time and money.

He apprised that during pre COVID-19 period (01.09.2019 till 29.02.2020) 173 Model Criminal Trial Courts decided 21,553 murder and narcotic cases. During this period, 152 Model Trial Magistrate Courts decided 61,795, and 119 Model Civil Appellate Courts decided 33502 cases. Total 444 Modal Courts, in all, decided 116,850 cases in just 153 days.

In his speech, the Attorney General for Pakistan said that only a truly independent judiciary can be the ultimate custodian and bulwark of the rights and liberties of the people. The institutional independence of the judiciary has to be jealously guarded and there can be no better guarantor of its independence than a united Court with a robust bar standing by it.

Regarding the transparency in appointment of judges of superior court, the AGP said that the present mechanism provided under Article 175A of the Constitution envisages a collaborative process entrusting the judiciary and the parliament with the task of appointment of judges to the superior Courts. He said that the bench has to keep in mind that without adequate representation of women as well as minorities the process will not be completed.

He said, “Our criminal justice system is heavily tilted in favour of the perpetrators of crimes rather than the victims.” It is worst if the perpetrator happens to be powerful, socially or financially. Wealth and social status raise an impregnable defense in favour of the perpetrators of all sorts of crimes. Gender related crimes are endemic. Female victims, be a child of three year or a mother of three, are particularly targeted. There is even honour in killing female members of the family.

He continued that as to white collar crimes, owing to lack of impartiality, arbitrariness and defective investigation and prosecution, perpetrators of such offences manage to present themselves as victims of a flawed accountability process. The real victims of these crimes are the people of Pakistan whose billions are siphoned off and locked in foreign accounts and assets.