Before the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP), a group of lawyers has moved a petition requesting to review the existing National Judicial Policy. The Supreme Court, allowing the petition for hearing, has taken a praiseworthy step; the discussion and arguments will provide enough material for revising the current judicial policy, which has achieved but very little in the dispensation of speedy justice.

The contentions of the petitioners before the court are well-placed. A research conducted on directives of former Chief Justice (CJ) of SC, Jawwad S. Khawaja, finds that it takes an average of 25 years to conclude litigation in Pakistan. The delay in deciding cases has resulted in backlogging of claims that have overburdened courts of the country. It is safe to assume that delay in delivering justice is equivalent to violating the right of access to justice in Pakistan.

It is necessary for the Supreme Court to consider the request of the petitioners that measures be taken to formulate a policy on delay reduction. At the moment more than 1.8 million cases are pending in courts across Pakistan. Only in the SCP, more than thirty-six thousand cases are undecided. Until a policy is devised that explicitly bars delaying tactics employed by the lawyers and parties, the courts will fail to deliver swift justice to litigants.

Furthermore, the number of hearings a court takes in deciding one case is exceptionally high: fifty-eight hearings. So many hearings also add to delay in concluding legal cases. Add to this is the issue of frivolous litigation that contributes to backlogging of the cases in courts. The petitioners’ plea to penalize frivolous lawsuit also needs the attention of the bench hearing the petition. Imposition of a monetary penalty will help in discouraging people from doing so. The proposal of the lawyers that to reduce backlogging of the cases regulating alternative dispute resolution (ADR) should be used is an idea, which needs to be taken seriously. At least in civil cases reliance on ADR will lessen the burden of the courts.

But the bench should deal with the proposition of the petitioners that a time limit should be imposed on suits as it makes no sense to deny justice to those who go to courts as a last resort to settle a dispute. The question worth asking is whether the court will constitute a commission or committee to formulate a new Judicial Policy or seek help from legislative to give the new policy a democratic outlook and for the reason that the latter has greater capacity to change existing structures.