The National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee (NJPMC) has suggested establishing Model Civil Appellate Courts (MCAC) as well as Model Trial Magistrate Courts (MTMC) for early disposal of civil litigation. The judges of such courts will conduct a preliminary hearing for settling all technical and legal issues whereas the scheduling conference will be held on the day the respondent appears. No adjournment will be granted and miscellaneous application will be decided before the final decision except where the disposal merits in the final judgement. Likewise, the record in appeals against orders and revisions will not be requisitioned and certified copies will be attached. Moreover, judgement will be announced not later than three days after conclusion.

The meeting was led by Chief Justice of Pakistan and NJPMC chairman Asif Saeed Khosa, who has been the pioneer of tilting the Pakistan justice system towards a model courts model. Justice Khosa had identified the problem of inordinate delays in the dispensation of justice and the severe backlog of cases even before he took on the mantle of Chief Justice and had vowed to resolve the issues of people waiting for years for a decision by the Court. Justice Khosa intended these reforms to fundamentally ease and speed the dispensation of justice in criminal cases.

And speed up they have. It has not been publicised as much but model courts may have brought in a mini-revolution in the criminal justice system. The results have been clear- the 110 Model Criminal Trial Courts (MCTC) across the country have so far decided a total of 5,647 murder and narcotics trial cases in two and a half months. Considering this enormously successful rate, it makes sense to extend this procedure to civil litigation, where there is a backlog of cases as well. Yet before we divulge into it, it would do to pay heed to the complex issues that have arisen out of model courts. While public reception to model courts has been positive, it has been noted that foregoing the general procedural restrictions set in the CrPC has led to a higher acquittal rate. This raises questions on how well evidentiary standards and the presumption of innocence are being upheld in these courts. It would be a tragedy if in the pursuit of speedy justice we sacrifice innocence.

Thus, although this initiative should go forward, the legal fraternity has to be mindful of overlap and complexity in procedure.