LAHORE: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has hinted at promoting “non-traditional ways” for quick dispensation of justice.

“The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system seems to be the only way to address delays in settlement of cases. We should embrace model courts if they are not at the cost of delaying ordinary litigation and if they provide privilege to those who need it,” Justice Nisar said in his keynote speech at the concluding session of the second Punjab Women Judges Conference at a hotel on Sunday.

The chief justice advised every judge to know the law and apply it, saying that adherence to the due process of law must be ensured to improve quality of justice. “There is no difference between a civil judge first class and a Supreme Court judge. Both are meant to dispense justice according to law and no one can do it according to his or her own will,” he said.

The chief justice said the Constitution guaranteed equal rights to all citizens, adding that women and children had been given prerogative in this regard for protection of their rights.

“We are lucky that we are governed by a written constitution which enshrines fundamental rights that make no discrimination between male and female. Unfortunately, in rural areas there may be situations where women aren’t treated well. But in cities I feel that women are in quite better condition,” said Justice Nisar, praising Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah for highlighting gender-based violence.

He also appreciated efforts made for arranging courses and trainings that provide an opportunity to judicial officers to benefit from rich experience of international speakers.

Earlier, LHC Chief Justice Mansoor Shah pointed out that 1.2 million cases had been pending before courts across Punjab. He said that 3,651 of the 5,446 cases had been decided through ADR centres, while 11,113 cases had been decided in civil model courts and 4,274 in criminal model courts.

Justice Shah advised female judges to fight against elements that perpetuated violence against women. “Violence faced by women takes physical, verbal, psychological and economic forms,” he said, acknowledging the need for providing women better access to justice through impartiality in adjudication.

Justice Ayesha A. Malik urged female judges to encourage a women-friendly non-discriminatory environment within their courtrooms to restore women’s faith in the judiciary. She said that the recommendations discussed during the conference would be instrumental in formulating policies for more gender-sensitive conduct and environment in courts across the country.

In the earlier session, Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) Chairperson Fauzia Viciar informed the participants that about 7,313 cases of violence against women had been reported by the IGP office last year.

Justice Susana Medina, President of International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), said a domestic violence office had been established in Argentina’s apex court which operated throughout the year. She proposed that such a system be introduced in Pakistan.

Justice Eusebia Munuo of the Court of Appeal in Tanzania said that “economic violence” had been a major problem faced by widows in rural communities in her country.

Justice Saida Chebili, President of the Court of Sousse in Tunisia, emphasised that barriers faced by women in pursuing legal cases must be overcome through rights-based awareness campaigns and education for the masses.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, USA, said that children advocacy centres had been established in her country to provide psychological and other support services and restraining orders could be obtained for entire families in violent situations.

In the session on sexual violence, Mehreen Siddiqi of the PCSW pointed out that some 1,365 cases of rape had been reported during the Jan-June period this year. However, data collected by the PCSW revealed a staggeringly low conviction rate in these cases, she said.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Shazib Saeed highlighted a widespread bias among law enforcement agencies that deters women and girls from seeking justice.

Ms Anne Goldstein and Justice Eusebia Munuo highlighted IAWJ’s role in eliminating child sexual abuse in Ghana and collaborating with medical practitioners, legal professionals and local community leaders to support women victims of violence.

Dr Robyn Layton, a former judge of the Supreme Court in South Australia, shared her experience of conducting gender sensitivity training with the district judiciary of the province.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2017