“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a legal maxim commonly knownto general public. Inthe last decade, numerous judicial policies came into existence but not a single was implemented by the judicial officers and a pressure was developed on litigants and lawyer community to wind up cases expeditiously without seeking an adjournment even though it is a genuine one. The policies were made in good faith but are posing a serious threat to the ‘due process’ which is the vehicle for the rule of law.
After lawyers’ movement, people developed trust in judiciary and ran toward the courts to get their legal rights but during that period their cases got stuck for years and even now most of them are waiting for justice. Subsequently, judges from the said movement were appointed as High Court and Supreme Court judges violating the merit and criteria which waslength of experience, competency, intellect, overall conduct as a good human being in practice and knowhow of law etc.The reason of appointments was to oblige leaders of lawyers’ movement. Serving experienced judges were removed, who were blamed for taking oath under Provincial Constitutional Order. The appointment was a token of appreciation for the efforts of political lawyers for movement in which they were also brutally beaten by personnel of the then military dictator butprofessional lawyers were ignored in elevation to the bench.
In present scenario, there is shortage of judges in superior courts and cases are not decided on law or its merit. The focus of judges is on disposal of cases rather delivering justice to the claimant. If a litigant sit in a court room, they would feel that it is a sitting of elders of Jirga members or a Monarch hearing claims of his constituency. The decorum of court, basic procedure and law is not followed. Superior Courts have started acting like a civil court and no relief is granted to protect basic fundamental rights of a citizen unless and until highlighted by different means.
Currently there is a trend in the courts wherehundreds of cases are fixed before a bench and people come from long flung areas to attend to their casesbutafter taking up a few files from the pilesof cases fixed, the remainingare “left over” which means adjourned due to paucity of time and load of work on the bench. Owing to a long cause list, the main focus of judges is on disposal of a cases which means deciding a case haphazardlywithout delivering justice to the litigant. The cases which are decided in a hurry are buried in the name of disposal. Lawyers are not heard properly, they are not permitted to quote law, judgments are not cited and like elder of Jirga verdicts areannounced. It is worth mentioning here that patient hearing is given in political cases and to petitions, that are in limelight in media.
In superior courts, political cases are heard whereas ordinary citizen are deprived from hearing of a case for decades and when it is placed before judges, simple question of limitation would bring an end to his legal and valuable right
All over Pakistan i.e. Islamabad High Court, Lahore High Court and Sindh High Court etc. cases are being heard by a single member bench but in Peshawar High Court and High Court of Balochistan, writ petitions are being heard by Division Benches. In Peshawar High Court hundreds of cases are fixed andpeople who are mostly working class,take leaves from their offices, sit and wait for the whole day in the courtto dress the court but after hearing a dozen cases, the rest of cases are left over and litigants curse the courts for not giving them a hearing as their precious time is wasted and a great damage is also caused to public exchequer.
The constitution provides that additional judges can also be appointed when there is a need toclear the bottleneck of litigations but instead of filing permanent vacancy of high court or supreme court judges, additional and ad-hoc judges are appointedin violation oflandmark judgements of August Supreme Court of Pakistan in Al-Jehad Trust V. Federation of Pakistan, PLD 1996 SC 324and Sindh High Court Bar AssociationV. Federation of Pakistan, PLD 2009 SC 789.Judges get retiredor additional judges are not confirmed and thereafter nomination and appointment of judges takes a lot of time which affect the whole machinery of judicial system.
The author is a LL.M Scholar and a practicing lawyer of High Court based in Peshawar & Islamabad