The judiciary in any country is the custodian of the constitution and guarantor of the fundamental rights of the people. The institution is not only considered the most sanctimonious pillar of the state but also a foundation on which civilizations are built. All philosophies ungrudgingly acknowledge the independence of the judiciary as a means to ensure social amity, political development, peace and progress in any society. The judiciary in our country has passed through different phases. One of the phases is known as ‘doctrine of necessity’, which undermined the role of judiciary. But after the judicial movement, the institution started to regain its last glory.
Now our judiciary is performing wonderfully well and has rekindled the hopes of common people that there is someone who will protect their basic human rights. The institution is in the limelight since the CJP Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali took up the Panamagate case in November 2016. Our judiciary is now giving hearing to all the cases without any discrimination that the person is high profile leader or a common man. Because of that some prominent parliamentarians like Mian Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen were disqualified. Besides, the institution is also well aware how to deal with anyone who tries to malign the judiciary or the honorable judges. The apex court issued some intensive contempt of court proceedings against those who speak against the Supreme Court judges. Nehal Hashmi is one such example who has completed his punishment in contempt of court.
Apart from these Panamagate and post-Panamagate proceedings, the apex court has also started to protect the rights of common people. Such cases are dubbed as ‘public interest litigation’. During the last few months, the incumbent CJP Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took a large number of Suo Motu actions on a variety of issues ranging from the contaminated drinking water and substandard milk to extra-judicial killings, rape-cum-murder incidents of minor girls, illegal constructions, blockade of roads for VVIP movements, security barriers in public streets, Axact fake degree scam, laundered money of Pakistanis in foreign accounts, sale of substandard and expensive coronary stents, high fees charged by private medical colleges, media spending, and lack of health facilities at public hospitals, police encounters in Punjab etc. In fact, the chief justice of Pakistan is on a mission which is widely in the interest of the common masses, the citizens of Pakistan.
Because of these initiatives, a section of society is criticizing the honorable Chief Justice for interfering in the domain of executives but he has denied any such interference. He responded that he is not bothered by criticism and is committed to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country. He clarified that accusations hurled at him are baseless as he is merely trying to fight the social evils/issues. He also gave example of the pension of widows which SC increased from Rs. 1300 to Rs. 8000 to at least facilitate them in the purchase of painkillers.
Now attention should also be given to judicial reforms. The judiciary has the prime responsibility to provide justice on time and in accordance with the law. There is one complain which is mostly heard is that people don’t get justice on time. This delay is one of the major reasons for which our judiciary is being criticized. One of its major reasons is that almost 150 cases are referred to a judge everyday, which is too much. Despite working hard and beyond office hours, the size of litigation is not decreasing. Its foremost reason is the non-availability of sufficient judges at all levels and absence of stringent provisions to discourage frivolous litigation.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar also addressed this issue and chaired meetings on judicial reforms and how to minimize the backlog. There are many aspects which are under consideration like e-facilitations to public litigants and lawyers to ensure easy access to courts, introduction of information technology in courts so as to facilitate public, effective court and case management, promotion of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADRs), training of judges, law officers and staff, categorization of courts to provide inexpensive and expeditious justice to general public. These reforms have at some extent have been introduced in Punjab and are a roadmap for rest of the judiciary. The Chief Justice emphasized the importance of alternative dispute resolution because it will decrease the burden of the already overburdened formal justice system.
BY and large our judiciary is performing well. Even though there is still room for improvement in our judicial system but it should be accepted that with present number of judges and the circumstances the judges are trying its best to deliver.
The author is a freelance writer based in Lahore.