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Judicial reform

Published Nov 05, 2015 02:43am

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The real test of parliamentary resolve is steady and methodical work towards a set of reforms.—INP/File
The real test of parliamentary resolve is steady and methodical work towards a set of reforms.—INP/File

INVITING the Chief Justice of Pakistan to address a special committee of the Senate tasked with drafting reforms for speedy justice in the country was a welcome move that was always likely to generate goodwill between two of the three pillars of the state.

Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali also obliged by being candid about the shortcomings of the judiciary itself while being clear about the judicial domain needing to be respected by other institutions. Few would disagree that there is a crisis of justice in Pakistan.

Too few have access to courts and where there is access, the quality of justice provided is often unacceptable.

Also read: Laws worthless in absence of enforcement: CJ

The lack of formal justice at the grass-roots level has led to the continuation of a parallel, informal system of justice — with panchayats and jirgas handling as much as 80pc of disputes, according to the chief justice. That twofold crisis — too few are opting for the formal system and the few who do opt for it are served very poor quality of justice — is the one that affects the vast majority of the people.

Resolving that crisis though would require a fundamental shift in attitudes — and a raft of reforms worked out in cooperation with the judiciary. However, on neither front is there much urgency or seriousness of purpose.

Consider that while Chairman of the Senate Raza Rabbani has made it a priority to reach out to the judiciary and to foster dialogue between institutions, parliament itself has no real legislative agenda. That is primarily the fault of the federal government, with the PML-N having a majority in the National Assembly. But it is also the listlessness of the opposition parties that is part of the problem.

In the Senate, Mr Rabbani’s enthusiasm aside, there are few senators from any of the major parties who are pressing for legal reforms — applauding a speech by a chief justice does not constitute meaningful input.

The real test of parliamentary resolve is steady and methodical work towards a set of reforms — something akin to the 18th Amendment process shepherded by Mr Rabbani, though in a more transparent manner.

The other aspect is the substance of the reforms themselves — while most agree that the judicial system is broken, the speeches by Mr Rabbani and Chief Justice Jamali on Tuesday indicated a significant gap between the two institutions of what the reforms should be.

For example, the introduction of a scheduling order for trials, as suggested by Mr Rabbani, could curb delays and keep trials streamlined and on track, but the chief justice appeared uncomfortable with the idea and ascribed blame for delays to other issues.

Ultimately, parliament must legislate and the judiciary must implement — but if it happens in a manner where one or the other institution is resistant to the fundamentals of the proposed changes, the attempted reforms could prove counterproductive.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2015

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Comments (10) Closed



Unfinished_Sentenc Nov 05, 2015 03:18am

The major problem with Pakistani Parliament is that most of the so-called law makers have no idea what lawmaking is in the first place. Most of them by virtue of their political/social clout/resources are only there for the sake of prestige. Can at-least Senate be made for "Specialists Only". Only people qualified, holding non-Axact degrees with proven experience in their area of expertise should be allowed to become a Senator. Is it too much to ask for?

Daanish Nov 05, 2015 05:03am

Justice cannot be done without having a solid police work , prosecution and forensics.

Expecting justice from courts without good evidence to convict some one is also unjust.

Lets build up institutions without political manipulations to serve all under our constitution.

aga khan Nov 05, 2015 06:36am

I pray that "sane" minds prevail and due reforms take place.

Keti Zilgish Nov 05, 2015 07:17am

In Pakistani democracy emphasis is on the boundaries between executive, judiciary, and legislature, whereas in Western democracies the emphasis is on checks and balances between the powers of the three branches of government.

ysk Nov 05, 2015 07:40am

80% through jirga and panchayat. Those are staggering and worrying numbers at the same time.

AW Nov 05, 2015 10:53am

Justice system is the back bone of a society which unfortunately barely exists in Pakistan, thus leaving the people with delayed and expensive justice and most of the time with no justice at all. The Parliament has a major task at hand to urgently start work on reforming the judicial system by rebuilding it from the ground up. so that it is capable of providing inexpensive and timely justice which the citizens deserve. In presence of an effective and competent justice system, the parallel institutions like the Sharia court and the Ombudsman setup need to be abolished to eliminate confusion. It is utter negligence of national duty that majority of the Parliamentarians would rather discuss what PM of India said in Bangladesh than work on urgently needed Judicial and government reforms for nation building. Where is the sense of national priorities? and why is the Parliament docile, heartless and nonfunctional in terms of its duties?

Jahanzaib shoukat Nov 05, 2015 12:49pm

Effective-cum-speedy justice is exigency in a time when to knock at the door of justice is tantamount to being convulsed in the whirlpool of yet another perpetuation of delays, which merely add to the grievances of victims sans having being redressed to begin with. Our legislators and interpreters are not cognizant of the fact that their less than benign role in the face of any criticism which requires the thorough shaking of our system.

m m amin Nov 05, 2015 06:31pm

We, the people of Pakistan , are incurable optimists . This event has generated hopes and there is a risk of frustration if there is no visible improvement in the laws/procedures dealing with the dispensation of justice. Current lawlessness is also due to delayed justice ; which we all know, is denied justice.

Keti Zilgish Nov 06, 2015 09:01pm

No justice is possible as long as only one group of people have a state sanctioned monopoly over investigation.

David Salmon Nov 07, 2015 01:31am

Sen. Rabbani and the special committee on reform of justice have the constitutional duty to propose statutes that will start to correct these problems. To have impact, they will have to address the full range of problems, starting with modern police academies to retrain the police and to establish modern investigative methods, creating a professional prosecution agency in every district, adding many new judges and courts, and improving the professionalism of the judges through mandatory judicial training. They will also have to do something about corruption, starting with higher salaries for the retrained police officers. And police internal investigation of corruption and denial of citizen's rights should be made potent.

It's a big job, but that's what Sen. Rabbani and his colleagues were elected to do. What is needed is fairly obvious. What is lacking is the will to actually do it.

imho, retired California Deputy Attorney General