One would hardly disagree with Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry addressing Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan that dispensation of justice is a collective responsibility of the judiciary and the state. Overall it is the criminal justice system of a state that includes judiciary, police, legal fraternity as well as the laws and constitution that are central to providing quick and inexpensive justice to the masses. His assertion that no system except for one that ensures supremacy of the constitution is acceptable is welcome. It is such a system that can ensure a just society where the fundamental rights of the citizens could be assured and also off stage players like the military kept at bay.

In fact no one knows better than the apex court that unless its orders are implemented in letter and in spirit, the criterion of supremacy of the constitution and judiciary cannot be met. The Supreme Court led by Mr Chaudhry has of course shown tremendous resilience in seeing to it that its orders are acted upon, something for which it earned the ire of the Musharraf regime as well as the incumbent setup. At the very heart of dispensation of justice lies peoples’ faith that judicial orders are only meant to be implemented not ridiculed and that justice is blind. Unfortunately, the present government has through its actions trying to create a perception that judiciary’s orders can be disregarded and that the criminals can get away with it. In order for the judiciary to establish its eminence as the final arbiter within the state, definitely the apex court would have to ensure that no one no matter how influential can dare defy its orders, once they are issued. It was good that the commission also expressed its concern over shortage of judges and the deplorable state of affairs in the subordinate judiciary, where the average litigant often spends his life attending the proceedings. Obviously the culture of corruption prevailing in the lower courts admitted oftentimes by Justice Chaudhry would have to be done away with. Independence of judiciary has been achieved with the Supreme Court’s activism and its exemplary conduct but only partly since the subordinate courts remain unchanged.

Given the situation, the state cannot absolve itself of its duties. Judges regularly complain that police with all its evils make their job cumbersome. It is here that the state’s role comes in; it should provide the resources for improvements in the subordinate judiciary as well as reform the police force from where starts the initial legal action including the FIR and the arrest of the criminals.