Pakistan’s urgent need for criminal justice sector reform? – Imtiaz Gul

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice, Mian Saqib Nisar has vowed to reform Pakistan’s criminal justice system. Heavy pendency in courts and abuse of the existing criminal procedures code (CrPC) appear to be the motivating factors behind this crusade that he kicked off with a visit to the mausoleum of the founder of the nation, Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (January 13)

Reform of the justice system was also among the 20 points of the National Action Plan (NAP). But nothing seems to have moved since January 2015.

Why did the Chief Justice have to declare the reform his agenda? Because, as he suggested, the legislature has failed to reform and amend the British era CrPC 1860.

All the judicial bodies — the Supreme Court, the five high courts, the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) and the federal capital as well as provincial district courts  of the provinces  – are overloaded and overstretched with pending cases. Even the special anti-terrorism courts – ATA Courts – face unusual pendency because of antiquated procedures.

An outdated legal system and a police force based on the obsolete Police Act 1861 have resulted in a huge pendency in all the courts across Pakistan i.e as of November 30, 2017,  a staggering 1,873,085 cases  were pending disposal in all the superior and subordinate courts of Pakistan, according to the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (L&JCP). The cumulative pendency at five high courts  stood around 293,316 cases.

Pendency at a glance: (Source Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan)

Supreme Court :  38,071

Lahore High Court (LHC) : 147,633

Sindh High Court (SHC) :93,404

Peshawar High Court (PHC) : 29,525 cases;

Balochistan High Court (BHC) : 6,510 cases

Islamabad High Court 16,244 (established only in 2012)

During his address to lawyers in Karachi ear, CJ Nisar urged the high court judges to dispose off cases within three months. “The judiciary can’t be blamed alone for delay in the dispensation of justice and people can’t get speedy justice until centuries old laws are updated and amended by parliament. The judiciary cannot make legislation and neither can it encroach the domain of the legislature,” Nisar said.

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