Justice delayed is justice denied 1

The importance and significance of justice can never be underestimated in the affairs of men. In fact, there can be no peace without order so there can be no order without justice. But, in the case of Pakistan, equal access to justice is a fragile concept. We, as a nation, have been unable to understand that justice is the application of the law equally to all citizens of the state.

William Ewart Gladstone, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the late 19th century, once said, “Justice delayed is justice denied”. Unfortunately, today’s Pakistan presents a typical example of this maxim because the judicial system of Pakistan is so slow and lethargic that for a case started by a grandfather, his grandson would be able to get the verdict. A civil suit in Pakistan takes nearly two decades to get decided by the civil court and the proceedings of the Sessions Courts, High Courts and Supreme Court of Pakistan also take almost similar time. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah struggled for a Pakistan where people’s rights would not be violated and every person would get justice in proper time, without any inordinate delay. But, the picture of justice system in today’s Pakistan is exactly opposite to Quaid’s vision and his aspirations. Although National Judicial Policy was enforced on July 1, 2009 to ensure speedy justice, still the situation has not substantially improved. A recent research reveals that 1.8 million cases are still pending before the country’s judiciary, which shows that more than one in hundred persons in the population of 180 million is involved in some type of litigation.

As per the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Denmark, Finland and Sweden are the least corrupt countries and they occupy this enviable position only because they have a judicial system that is speedy as well as delivery-oriented. They make all endeavours to ensure the rule of law in true spirit of the term. Corruption is inversely proportional to rule of law and an effective judiciary. With an abysmal lack of trust in judiciary, people tend to take law in their own hands. Having the though at the back of their mind that they wouldn’t get justice in minimum time, they find themselves at a crossroads. They, on the one side, want to avenge the wrongdoing without going to the court, while on the other they, with a mala fide, change the civil suit to a criminal one. Another option before them is to go to local informal courts which decide the case in a single hearing without taking evidence into consideration. All these scenarios lead to the law of the jungle where weak becomes the prey to the powerful.

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Judicial system of Pakistan basically has three basic laws — Pakistan Penal Code 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, and the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 — with some amendments. We need to introduce new laws and abandon the obsolete ones in order to meet the requirements of the modern times.

Our toothless laws are not the only reason behind dismal performance of the judiciary; many other different factors are also responsible for this. Sometimes lawyers themselves prolong the matter by not appearing before the court and instead sending only a request for the next date of hearing through their clerks. Sometime due to a large number of cases and scarcity of judges, many cases are fixed for a future date. Currently, there are only eighteen Supreme Court judges who decide the disputes for 180 million population and 48 judges of the Lahore High Court are dispensing justice to nearly 100 million population of the Punjab province. Superior judiciary remains tangled in political cases and mostly more than two judges sit on a full bench to deal such cases.

Moreover, if a person files a case, it is often seen that his counsel sends a notice to the defendant by post but deliberately makes a minor mistake while writing the address of the defendant. Hence, the notice either remains undelivered or is delivered to  a wrong person. Then, by the order of the court, a notice of very small size is published in a newspaper which almost everyone neglects. By employing such tactics, the counsels ensure that the defendant remains unaware so that the court may decide the case ex parte. When defendant comes to know about the whole proceedings, he files the appeal which becomes taxing for his generations who, owing to the slow judicial process, couldn’t get justice.

In this modern era where the use of fast means of communications is gaining momentum in every sector, we are still using the same centuries-old old ways that had rendered the judicial process dead slow. If it is necessary to send legal notices by post and to publish those in a newspaper, then this all should be done simultaneously without any delay so this process may not take more than three or four days.

Government needs to appoint more judges with proportion to population as one Supreme Court judge against one million population is absolutely insufficient. Judicial buses should be started, after the pattern of Mobile Court launched in Peshawar, in the whole country. These buses would go to every village to decide local disputes within a day or two. Establishing a separate political court to decide political cases, like Banking Courts which deal banking cases and the Federal Shariat Court which deals Islamic cases, would also be a wise option.

It is an undeniable fact that Islamic system of law is the best as in it justice is never delayed. But, instead of implementing the Islamic law, we have adopted a dead slow judicial system introduced by the Britishers. In Islamic system when a plaintiff files a case, then a cop immediately goes to produce the defendant before the court. After three to four consecutive days of hearing, Qazi decides the case. In this system, rights of no one can be violated and there is no need to pay heavy fees to lawyers who seem interested only in prolonging the case.

For making our judicial system fast and result-oriented, legislating complete new laws is inevitable. If we only amend the outdated laws, then judicial system will remain lethargic and dead. The proper implementation of law in proper time is sine qua non for a disciplined society. This whole discussion can be summed up in the words of George Washington, who in a letter written to Attorney General Edmund Randolph in 1789, said: “The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government.”

Justice delayed is justice denied

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